The Christian Thing to Do
Many of us are becoming increasingly weary with the fatuous harping of the World Council of Churches. We can always depend on the WCC to oppose conservative Christian and traditional Judeo-Christian positions.
A current example is the volley fired by the WCC’s ultraliberal executive council at a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, in May. The council declared that Israel’s actions toward the Palestinians cannot be justified morally, legally, or politically. Furthermore, the WCC top brass called for relaxation of sanctions against the Palestinians’ genocidal, terrorist Hamas government; and it railed against the security fence being constructed to protect Israeli civilians from terrorist attacks.
Time was when mainline denominations and secular forces largely accepted the WCC as the voice of worldwide Christianity. Today it claims to speak for 340 member churches, denominations, and fellowships numbering 550 million adherents in more than 100 countries.1 But it does not speak for us all, as certified by its exposure as the handmaid of extremist radicalism that targets, among others, evangelical Christians who continue to accept biblical authority, cherish the democratic norms upon which Western society has been constructed, and support the rights of the Jewish people to a secure homeland in the Middle East.
Matter of fact, someone has suggested (and I agree) that the majority of WCC leaders would do well to acknowledge their repudiation of the faith of our fathers and declare their own cult. Such will not be the case, of course, largely because these people control the funds and fortunes of adherents who remain unaware of the truths of spiritual life and the moral bankruptcy of their leaders.
Christian Concern for Israel and the Jewish People
Christian Holocaust heroine Corrie ten Boom once answered a question as to why she and her family willingly risked their lives to protect Jewish people from the Nazis. Her answer was simple and thoroughly Christian: Because, her father told her, “It was the Christian thing to do.” It was, and it remains so.
In May of this year, Elbert Colenbrander and his now deceased parents were officially recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” at a ceremony at Yad Vashem, the memorial in Jerusalem to the Holocaust. The honor was bestowed because of the Colenbrander family’s heroism in risking their lives by sheltering Jewish families at their farm in Holland during World War II.
Elbert Colenbrander, now 79, was surprised when contacted because he felt it was a “big honor he did not deserve.” The Jerusalem Post reported that his daughter Wilma said her father “never talked much with his children about the war, and only discussed it when asked….Over the years, he always said that he was taught that as a Christian, you do these things for other people.”2
The Colenbranders and Corrie ten Boom are among the 13,000 Gentiles, including three Americans, currently honored in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem. Many of them were essentially humanitarians moved by the horrifying plight of the Jewish people. Thousands of others, however, were Christians. They were motivated, despite the risks, by a biblically instilled compassion concerning “the Christian thing to do.”
Calling Israel apartheid, expansionist, illegal, and predatory is a perverse, bigoted, and unwarranted transgression of the truth. At its base, it is a heinous assault that extends far beyond the borders of aggression against a legitimate nation. It is, in fact, a violation of the viability of the Jewish people’s struggle to survive in the world’s most hostile environment. Every day Israelis face heavily armed enemies determined to destroy them.
It Is About People
It is a fact that millions of evangelical Christians have no compunction about being identified as Christian Zionists, and this commitment spills over into the realm of international politics. But the bottom line for Christian Zionists is an unfathomable love for the Jewish people and their land—a love that is biblically instilled and so profoundly personal it cannot be explained. It can only be expressed by the lives and actions of Christians who prove their affection for Israel and the Jewish people in quite extraordinary ways.
I remember speaking at a church in Michigan some years ago where I recounted an interview I had had with a Jewish senator about his personal experiences with prejudice and anti-Semitism. Near the end of the interview, he rather pensively confessed that, from time to time, he would scan his circle of friends and ask himself a question he felt most Jewish people ask themselves: If an Adolf Hitler were to rise to power in America, who among these people would give me a place to hide?
A year later I returned to the church for another speaking engagement. As I entered the building, I was met by a young woman who immediately asked if I remembered my comments about the interview. “Of course,” I said.
She replied that her employer was Jewish and that, for some time, she had wanted to explain her faith to him and why she cared deeply for Jewish people and Israel. So she decided to speak to him at her earliest opportunity. The next morning, as she walked to her desk, she met him in the aisle. He seemed to sense that she had something on her mind.
“Is there something I can do for you?” he asked.
Because of the suddenness of the encounter, she found herself speechless. Suddenly, she burst out with the only thing that came to mind. “I just want you to know,” she said, “that if an Adolf Hitler ever comes to America, I’ll give you a place to hide.”
Her employer was so moved that he wept.
This is not merely a story. It is the genuine reflection of the hearts of many, many thousands of Christians. Some of them don’t know quite how to say what they feel, but they feel it nonetheless.
The late Will H. Houghton, president of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois, from 1934 to 1947, put it in a few rather simple but immensely expressive lines of poetry:
Say not a Christian e’er would persecute a Jew;
A Gentile might, but not a Christian true.
Pilate and Roman guard that folly tried.
And with that great Jew’s death an empire died!
When Christians gather in cathedral, church or hall,
Hearts turn toward One—the name of Jesus call.
You cannot persecute—whatever else you do—
The race who gave Him—Jesus was a Jew!
Or hear the words from the intrepid Poet of the Sierras, Joaquin Miller, in his “To Russia”:
Who taught you tender Bible tales
Of honey-lands, of milk and wine?
Of happy, peaceful Palestine?
Of Jordan’s holy harvest vales?
Who gave the patient Christ? I say,
Who gave the Christian creed? Yea, Yea,
Who gave your very God to you? Your Jew! Your Jew! Your hated Jew!3
The Christian-Zionist phenomenon is not a monolithic, political strategy brewed by right-wing conservatives with an agenda to attain or an ax to grind. It is the totality of many millions of individual believers who have arrived at their conclusions about Israel and its Jewish heritage because of two things: (1) a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and (2) interaction with the Scriptures—Old and New Testaments—that inevitably direct intellects and hearts to an affinity for the land and the people of the Book.
I have been asked repeatedly over my decades of association with Jewish people in and outside of Israel why, as a Gentile, I’ve chosen to invest my life in this fashion. My answer is not unique but, rather, what you will hear in one way or another from virtually every Christian with a serious commitment to the mandates of God’s Word: “One day I met a Jew who changed my life, assured my eternal destiny, and set my life’s course in another direction. That Jew is Jesus Christ, and I owe Him everything.”
And the testimonies of myriads of other Bible-believing Christians are on record. Blanche Dugdale, niece of Lord Arthur James Balfour, said of her uncle,
He always talked eagerly on this [the Jew in the modern world] and I remember in childhood imbibing from him the idea that Christian religion and civilization owes to Judaism an immeasurable debt, shamefully ill repaid.4
And where did the primary instigator of the British decision to create a mandate for a Jewish state in Palestine find his inspiration?
Balfour liked to read from the Old Testament prophets, particularly Isaiah. He loved to read aloud, and did so…‘beautifully and reverently.’ [Because of his biblical insight] He was one of those devout Christians who was able to view the Jews with insight and simple, down-to-earth understanding.5
As with other early supporters of a Jewish homeland, Bible knowledge was the key to Balfour’s commitment.
Of more recent vintage was Ed McAteer, now with the Lord, whose love for Israel and the Jewish people made him a modern pioneer in Jewish-Christian relations. It was Ed who, in 1981, launched the groundbreaking, annual National Prayer Breakfast in honor of Israel in Washington, D.C. His journey as an ardent Christian Zionist began with his wife Faye’s challenge to him. In a book published about Ed in 2004 titled The Power of One: The Ed McAteer Story, Thomas and Jonathan Lindberg and Daniel E. Johnson wrote:
[McAteer said,] “Her grandfather told her to be good to the Jews, citing Genesis 12:1, where God promises to bless those who bless Abraham and his family.” Over the years, as a result of disciplined study of the Word of God, he had become a “Christian Zionist.”
A New Way of Thinking
What saddens many evangelicals is that, for so very long, we were viewed as no better than the pseudo-Christians who tormented the Jewish people and opposed a Jewish homeland. Fueling this misconception is Replacement Theology, the erroneous idea that the church has replaced Jewry as the true Israel of God.
In like vein, there has been a chasm of misunderstanding separating Jewish people and evangelicals, propagated by the fallacy that the driving force in Christian support is the motivation to proselytize unwary Jews and facilitate their return to the land merely to bring about apocalyptic convulsions and hasten the return of Jesus.
To be fair, evangelicals need make no apology for desiring to communicate their faith to Jewish people. Many years ago in New York City, I spoke about this issue with a prominent national Jewish leader. He said he had no trouble with Christian evangelism. The nature of evangelicalism is to evangelize, he said. To do less would violate the commission Jesus gave the church.
His problem was when Christians evangelized in the guise of some form of Judaism or worked like undercover agents for Jesus, representing themselves as something they are not in order to seduce Jews into converting.
I have no problem with his observation. We have an obligation to make Christ and the gospel known to all people, Jewish and Gentile. In the words of Scripture, “There is no difference” (Rom. 3:22). And the gospel is to be proclaimed to all (Mt. 28:19–20).
Ironically, the desire of Christians to communicate their faith is actually more unifying than divisive. I know of no Christians today who think less of their Jewish friends who fail to believe in Jesus. Their friendships are strong, demonstrating unequivocally an unconditional love. And they will remain friends—unvarnished and irrevocable, no apologies necessary—as far as Christian Zionists are concerned.
It’s the Christian thing to do.
- “What Is the World Council of Churches?” <wcc-coe.org/wcc/who/index-e.html>.
- Etgar Lefkovits, “A righteous family is honored after 60 years,” May 31, 2006, <jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FshowFull&cid=1148482084949&>.
- Joaquin Miller, “To Russia,” An American Anthology, 1787–1900, ed. Edmond Clarence Stedman (1900; New York: Greenwood Press, 1968), 429.
- Cited in Michael Pragai, Faith and Fulfilment (London: Vallentine, Mitchell and Company Limited, 1985), 84. 5 Ibid.