From Bill Sutter’s Desk May/Jun 2002
The theme of this issue of Israel My Glory, “Comfort Ye My People,” voices an important commitment of The Friends of Israel since its inception.
The Christians who so willingly met in 1938 to form The Friends of Israel did so out of a compelling sense of Christian love and a desire to express care and concern for Europe’s beleaguered Jewish community.
Headquartered then in Philadelphia, The Friends of Israel rallied Christians to the challenge of meeting physical and spiritual needs of countless Jewish people trying to flee the Nazis. Aid went to poor refugee families. Funds were used to rescue Jewish people from Germany and other European countries. Orphans were supported. Thus the heartrending cries of Europe’s Jewish communities were being heard thousands of miles away in America. God’s comfort was being spread forth by Christians who themselves were recipients of His blessings.
Recently an interesting article titled “Holy Land—Send These to Me” ran in The International Jerusalem Post. It described a widespread network of evangelical Christians who have been helping thousands of Jewish people move to Israel. Citing prophetic Scriptures about the nation’s return to its land (Isa. 43:5–6; Jer. 23:7–8), Christians have been giving generously for aliyah and related activities, including providing new immigrants with food and other much-needed relief. Christian support was reported to have played a significant role in Israel’s efforts to help bring Jews to Israel, especially from the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Throughout the six-page article, Israeli authorities and Jewish agencies expressed appreciation for all that Christians are doing to help. This appreciation, however, was tempered by feelings that believers might have ulterior motives, such as proselytizing and trying to hasten Christ’s return.
Proselytizing is a strong term to Jewish people. It evokes terrible memories of forced conversions, deceptions, and sometimes even financial incentives to “convert.” Jewish skepticism is not surprising in light of what the Jewish people have experienced over the centuries at the hands of Gentiles who called themselves Christians. Persecutions, crusades, pogroms, and the Holocaust are erroneously perceived by many to have been Christian events. And they loom large indeed in the history of the Jewish people.
We at The Friends of Israel take seriously our Lord’s command to carry the gospel of God’s love in Jesus Christ to all mankind. Making Christ known is our calling. We also are called to “comfort ye my people.” And we do so as a genuine expression of our heart for the Jewish people and not as tools of proselytizing.
Furthermore, we do not believe that helping the Jewish people return to the land will hasten Jesus’ coming. Certainly, as Bible-believing Christians, we believe the Jewish people’s return to Israel fulfills biblical prophecy. We also believe in and long for Messiah’s return. However, the timing of the Lord’s Second Coming is in God’s hands alone and is not dependent on our efforts.
We believe that God has chosen a people—the Jewish people—and a nation, Israel, for a unique relationship with Him and a unique purpose in bringing blessing to the world.
Our Bibles were penned by the Jewish prophets and apostles as they were led of God. Our Savior chose to be born of Jewish lineage into the tribe of Judah and the house of David. We are recipients of God’s special blessings flowing from a Jewish heritage.
Today, as a vital part of our worldwide ministry, The Friends of Israel is engaged in numerous activities that clearly reflect our desire to comfort Israel. In the republics of the former Soviet Union, Friends of Israel workers distribute Bibles, food, medicines, and medical supplies. In Eastern Europe we provide lunches along with craft materials and supplies for the Jewish communities’ schools. In Poland we sponsor summer camping experiences for hundreds of Jewish children, their parents, and teachers. In Argentina our Friends of Israel medical team cares for more than 15,000 people annually at no charge at our Buenos Aires Medical Clinic, which functions twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year in the Jewish community.
Our love for the Jewish people is not conditional or based on other agendas. And it must always remain so—the same kind of unconditional love we have experienced from our Savior.