Our Spiritual Debt to the Jews
Have you ever looked back on something that happened in your childhood, which you didn’t understand then, only to realize that you now unfortunately do? As we approach Romans, I thought I’d share something that has always influenced how I read it.
Across the street from us, circa 1960, in Poughkeepsie, NY, there lived a certain Jewish family. My own family loved them dearly. My brother and I played with Ira – the youngest child – but Ira’s entire household knew us and always made us feel welcome. Ira’s mother used to invite us to come and watch “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” on their color TV (color being a big deal back then). She even made delicious Challah Bread for us – a Jewish egg bread with a braided top. I can still remember her wonderful, smiling, slightly-raspy voice…
Then, rather suddenly, they moved away. There was blood on the sidewalk in front of our house, and the neighbors were whispering. It was only later that we learned what had happened. Some of the other boys in that blue collar town – built in the ‘shadow’ of a ball-bearing factory – had ganged up on Ira’s older brother to beat him up. His bloody nose was rubbed into the sidewalk, leaving a tell-tale stain that lingered through several rainfalls. Why did this happen? My brother and I didn’t know at the time. But later, “the light went on”, and we knew. It was because they were Jewish.
In 1979, when I decided to seriously follow a certain Jewish carpenter from Nazareth, one of the surprises I encountered was the realization that more than a few Christians were prejudice against Jews. I also learned that Christian history was replete with crimes against Jews, often done in supposed allegiance to Christ. But that’s not what Romans teaches us, regarding how Christians should view the Jewish people.
The Jew whom we call the Apostle Paul declares in that epistle that God is not “through with the Jew”. In Romans 3:1-2, we are reminded that “the very words of God were entrusted to the Jews”. Romans 9:4-5 says “theirs is the adoption to sonship, the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.” Most importantly, Romans 11 further declares that Christians are spiritual debtors to the Jews, AND that God’s calling and covenant with them is still good, AND that in God’s time, “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-29).
Have you been following the news lately? Anti-Semitism is rising world-wide. There is blood on the sidewalk again! Let’s be sure that you and I, who are not Jewish, never despise Jewish people in our hearts – even if they oppose us privately or through public policy. After all, Romans 11:29 says “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” – and God has promised to Abraham (the first Jew) and his posterity “I will bless them that bless thee, and I will curse them that curse thee” (Genesis 12:3).