Ever since the horrors of the Holocaust during World War II, the world has been given to see how ugly hatred can become. Hitler and his henchmen targeted the Jews for extermination in places that reek of blood, tears and torture. Names such as Auschwitz, Dachau and Buchenwald make us shudder. This attempted genocide of an entire race or ethnic group – the Jews – was the ultimate in anti-semitism.
The apostle Paul was a Jew, “a Hebrew of the Hebrews,” as he put it. Mercifully given to trust in Christ and proclaim Christ’s gospel, he cared deeply for his own race which, as a whole, had rejected Jesus as the promised Messiah. The sad side of Christmas is that Christ “came unto His own and His own received Him not” (John 1:11).
Here is how Paul put it in Romans 9: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel…” Here is how he put it in Romans 10: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved…”
We see Paul’s burning love for his own people in his missionary journeys. Wherever he went, he first entered the synagogue, opened up the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Savior, and laid alongside those prophecies the facts and acts of Jesus of Nazareth – to show them that Jesus was indeed the Savior they had been waiting for. It would never have occurred to Paul to withhold from his own people the very Savior for whom they had long waited.
Contrast this with an official announcement from the Vatican this past week. Cardinal Kurt Koch and Rabbi David Rosen appeared together at a news conference to present a new official document which says that the church should no longer attempt to convert the Jews.
It states: “In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews,” adding that this is a “principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission”. A Vatican expert said it was the first time a repudiation of active conversion of Jews had been so clearly stated in a Vatican document. Rabbi Rosen said: “This is the first formal document that makes it clear there is no intentional desire to actively proselytize amongst Jews.”
In other words, preaching the gospel of free salvation in Christ to Jewish people is viewed by the Vatican as a form of “anti-semitism.” This all began some years ago when Vatican II removed the prayer for the conversion of the Jews from the Good Friday prayer. Such political correctness flies in the face of Christ’s great commission to preach the gospel to all nations! It is a denial of Christ. It is to be ashamed of the gospel. It is the real and ultimate “anti-semitism!”
One of the prayers in our current altar book says: “Lord and Savior…As you looked with compassion on the lost sheep of Israel, grant that your Holy Spirit may move us to look with compassion on the lost of our day.” Some may remember the old General Prayer in The Lutheran Hymnal (p. 13): “Send forth laborers into Thy harvest, and open the door of faith unto all the heathen and unto the people of Israel.”
“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” said Jesus, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” And…the apostle Peter, whom Rome ironically claims as its first pope, said this to the Jewish leaders in Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Peter, a Jew himself, said that to his own people…because he loved them. His people needed Christ. So do we all!