I had a great conversation today with a Christian pastor I respect and whose heart I know is in the right place. He had written a piece which in many ways was very fair in its description of Israel and the Torah. Yet, likely out of common tropes in Christian preaching, he used a few phrases from the longstanding arsenal of anti-Judaic rhetoric. I don’t mean he said anything blatantly anti-Semitic. The problem is not that Christians hear neo-Nazi propaganda in church. It is more subtle. Christians routinely hear that the Law (Torah) was burdensome, that Israel was unrighteous, and that the way of Christ implicitly rejects all that came before.
Christians need to realize:
(1) The Law is not burdensome. If there is a frustratingly high goal in the Law, none is higher than the command to love God with all the heart and neighbor as oneself. Christians find the command to love just as impossible to realize as Jews. So the burden is not, as those who are ignorant of Torah and Temple presume, a matter of old, strict, harsh ways which have been eliminated in the new, allegedly easier way of Christianity.
(2) Israel’s sin is the sin of all humanity. Does anyone think that Baptists or Catholics or Presbyterians would have done better?
(3) That Jesus (Yeshua) lived out the entire Torah and kept the customs, according to the gospels which all Christians read. He did not reject, nor did Paul, that which came before.
So, I shared some advice with my friend. In speaking about the history of the people of God and trying to express the problem of unattainable righteousness, here are some ways to avoid feeding popular anti-Judaic sentiments in Christian tradition:
(1) use more universal terms and avoid charging only Israel (the people of that time, or say something to the effect of “just like us, they found that they could not be as righteous as they aspired to be”).
(2) use more specific terms about what people could not keep instead of blaming the law in general (they found it hard to love as God requires, they did not live up to the high principles of righteousness, love, and faithfulness God demanded, etc.).
So, what do you think? Have you heard a lot of unintentional anti-Judaism in Christian speaking? Are you a Christian who thinks I am wrong on some point? Are you Jewish or in the Messianic movement and have you discussed this problem with friends?