Presented by the Commission on Christian Action, adopted by the delegates to the 115th Covenant Annual Meeting.
Christians throughout the ages along with the writers of the New Testament have affirmed that Jesus Christ is both divine and human. But this humanness assumed particularity, that is, Jesus was a Jew. His world was the world of first-century Palestinian Judaism. His scriptures were the Jewish scriptures. The God to whom he prayed and whose will he lived remains the God of Israel.
The history of Christians and Jews is not an altogether happy one. As Christians we are heirs of a long story marked by too many chapters of misunderstanding, hatred and even violence toward Jews. Christians were guilty of violence against Jews during the Crusades and persecuted and expelled the Jews from Spain in the medieval period. Christians were among those who, through their writing and speaking, promoted hatred of Jews and were among those guilty of sins of commission as well as omission during the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism is a virulent presence within our culture and our own communities as Jews experience hatred and violence visited upon their persons, property and houses of worship. It poses a real threat to the rights and well being of the Jewish community. Even today many Christians harbor antipathy toward their fellow human beings, made in God’s image, who are the descendants of the sisters and brothers of Jesus, Mary, Martha and Paul.
The story of Jesus, the first Christians and the first-century Jews is the story of honest disagreement about issues of first importance. Jesus’ criticism of some of the Jews of his day was not meant to apply to all Jews he encountered, let alone all Jews throughout the centuries. We should not forget that the theology of Jesus was formed through an encounter with the Jewish scriptures and a living relationship with Israel’s God. In his baptism Jesus declared solidarity with his people, even as in death he expressed solidarity with all God’s children. Nor should we forget that Jesus taught and modeled God’s compassion for all people, and that he enjoined us to do the same. Jesus quoted the Jewish scriptures when he said, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). If we abdicate responsibility for his call on our lives, we repudiate his teaching.
The Christian message is not a message of self-interest and superiority but of servanthood and friendship. Only a misrepresentation of the Biblical evidence allows for anti-Semitism or hatred of any sort. The witness of Jesus and the Bible as a whole speaks against such views. There is, therefore, no basis for anti-Semitism in Scripture, or room for anti-Semitism within the hearts and actions of God’s people.
As Christians we share common biblical roots and a rich common history with Jews. The story of God and the ancient Israelites is a Jewish story, but one which has shaped us as well. Moreover, the New Testament is a deeply Jewish book which we understand best when we come to recognize this common heritage. The New Testament tells the story of the birth of the Christian movement within Judaism and the reasons the early Christian Church and Judaism parted company many centuries ago. While the New Testament at some points reflects hostility between early Christians and the Jewish authorities, it also reflects a general attitude of Christian respect and concern for Jews and Judaism. Jesus’ heart yearned for his people, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). In Paul’s heart burned a deep love for his people and a desire for their salvation that was never quenched (Romans 9:1-5). That desire has never left our hearts.
Judaism and Christianity are distinct yet related faiths. In spite of their differences, they hold a great deal in common. For this reason, Jews are our sisters and brothers, just as they were the sisters and brothers of Jesus. The call of Christ to his followers is to be servants and to live lives of humility. It is a call for care and compassion—the Gospel is truly a message of good news for all people.
We, the delegates to this Annual Meeting, call upon our congregations of fellow believers to take actions such as:
- Initiate Christian-Jewish dialogue.
- Remember local Jewish communities in prayer.
- Learn sensitivity to cultural differences.
- Visit one another’s houses of worship.
- Schedule joint trips and study tours to places of historical and religious significance.
- Plan joint lay and/or clergy retreats.
- Find ways to support one another such as:
- Exchanging baby sitters for holy days.
- Joint community service.
- Share this resolution with other churches