Thursday, May 22, 2014

Postscript: Why Anti-Semitism?

     The survival of the Jewish people is one of the great mysteries of the human history.  More than once have kings, nations, armies, dictators and religions sought to annihilate the Jews across the centuries.  Each time, God has preserved His own.  His children walk in a toxic world, fallen from the sin of disobedience and committed to pursuing everything that is contrary to God.  His hand has been on His Chosen and it has not, nor will continue to be, easy to be His.
     Why is that?  Let's return once more to Cain and Abel.  Abel was a visible reminder of what it means to be obedient to God's word.  He brought the right kind of offering.  God didn't somehow favor him over his brother; Abel took what God said seriously and acted on that knowledge.  Cain has the same instructions, but listened to his own logic and decided he knew what was best and acted accordingly.
     Cain could have had two reactions to watching his brother come forward with his offering:  Yes, that's right, I need to bring an animal to offer to God.  That is what God instructed us to do.  I know these are fine grains, but God wanted a firstborn of our flock.  I don't understand why, but I will obey.
     Or:  What's up with Abel?  Does he think he's better than me?  Look at that offering...we could use that sheep, not God.  God doesn't need it. Who does Abel think he is?
     We sadly know which attitude he had, and how it yielded murderous results.
     In fact, one of Cain's descendants, Lamech, will boast: to his family:
"I have killed a man for wounding me,
    a young man for injuring me.
If Cain is avenged seven times,   
then Lamech seventy-seven times.” (Gen. 4:23-4)
     Do you hear Jesus' commentary on this?  "Then Peter came and said to Him, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." (Matt. 18:21-22)
     Forgiveness is the antidote to anger.  Anger feeds revenge.  Revenge justifies murder in the sinful heart of humanity.  That is why Jesus spoke so forcefully to anger:  we can murder another person's body, yes, but also their soul with our hatred and wrath. 
     Look how far we have come in such a short time:  Cain murdered Abel in a field where no one was around, and it was Abel's blood that cried out and exposed the murder.  Yet, God in His mercy, didn't allow vengeance upon Cain, although he deserved it.  His descendant, Lamech, boasted of his killing another human being.  Lamech focused not on God's mercy, but his own logic that injury should bring merciless justice. 
     This is human history in a nutshell:  We want to receive mercy, but we want to mete out justice to those we consider deserving of it. 
     Those people who live in a universe inhabited by a Creator, Who has given them mercy and thus demands both obedience to Him and mercy for others, will, to the Lamechs and Cains, become suspect.  Why?  Those people are visible reminders that God is the highest Power, not humanity's fallen logic. 
     The people of God remind this fallen world of God's Presence, His laws, His grace and His demands for obedience. His people are a ray of light into a dark world. People don't like the light. Why? Jesus comments:  "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed." (John 3: 19-20)
     So, anti-Semitism is Cain's reaction to Abel:  Who do these Jews think they are?  Insisting on one God that speaks to them and give them laws to obey?  Our laws are fine!  They work for us!   The laws of the Jews--no idols, no worship but to God alone, forgiveness and mercy--who needs 'em?  If we get rid of them, we will get rid of that visible reminder that God, not us, is in control.
     Look at how Jesus dealt with how evil people react to God's visible reminders:  “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.  The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him."  (Matt. 21:33-39).
     When evil confronts the light, evil tries to destroy it, pure and simple.  Jesus is talking about the prophets who came before him, and then what will happen to Him.  The religious leaders and the Romans, when confronted by the very Son of God, tried desperately to extinguish the Light of the World.
     The Holocaust would not have stopped with a few strategic bombings on the camps.  That's like trying to redirect a hurricane:  it's very nature is one of chaos, and no matter where it goes, it unleashes destruction.  The hatred that permeated Germany wouldn't have stopped if a few camps had been taken out of operation.  The Holocaust was a progressive fury to find the most efficient way of eliminating the Jews.  If the camps had stopped, the mass shootings and mobile killing trucks would have increased. 
     The Jewish people, like Jesus Himself, are visible reminders that God is in this world. He is not ignorant or unfeeling towards the suffering of His Abels. Their blood cries out, demanding justice. His justice will be meted out.
    But, He is also painfully aware of the Cains doing the evil, and wants them to turn from their wicked ways: "'Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?' says the Lord God, 'and not that he should turn from his ways and live?'" (Ezekiel 18:23)
     Jesus Himself endured all the hatred that the world could give.  Whenever we cry out to God and say, "But You don't understand!"  Jesus steps off His throne and takes our hand and say, "Oh yes, I do."
     Before we leave this discussion, I know many will say that anti-Semitism was largely conducted in Jesus' name.  But, that doesn't explain the hatred of the Jews by their enemies throughout the Old Testament.  That doesn't explain the Romans' persecution and slaughter of the Jews.  Christianity didn't create anti-Semitism.  It sadly carried it on. 
     But one cannot serve the Lord and hate His people.   Throughout history, that has largely been the Jews.  But, in Nazi Germany, God's people in Christianity were despised as well.   "Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach said, 'The destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognized as a purpose of the national socialist movement.'"
      "And Nazi leader Alfred Rosenberg, a member of Hitler’s inner circle, stated at the Nuremberg Congress of 1938, 'I am absolutely clear in my own mind, and I think I can speak for the Fuhrer as well, that both the Catholic and Protestant churches must vanish from the life of our people.'”
     “'It is only on one or two exceptional points that Christ and Hitler stand comparably. For Hitler is far too big a man to be compared with one so petty,'” said Julius Streicher, the publisher of the Nazi paper Der Sturmer."
Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels said, 'Our Fuhrer is the intermediary between his people and the throne of God. Everything the Fuhrer utters is religion in the highest sense.'”

      When we violate the first commandment, to have no other god before God, we allow evil to spark and burn into conflagration.  
     The Holocaust humbles us to remember our depravity and our need for God and His saving grace.  Abels can become Cains very quickly and yet, because of the work of His Son upon the cross, Cains can become Abels.

The quotations are from Ray Comfort's book, Hitler and the Bible.

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