I was recently at the home of an American Jewish family celebrating a Jewish holiday, and the hostess said to me, “You have no idea how hard it is living in a Christian country.”
I was immediately filled with shame and a bit of anger at my so-called Christian community. I hugged her and apologized for the hardships they have endured as Jewish Americans, particularly at the hands of Christians in our own country.
In the moment, I was stunned. To be honest, despite my time working to fight anti-Semitism here and abroad, I had not considered that it was hard for a Jewish family to simply live in the United States as a country founded on Judeo-Christian values and with a majority Christian demographic. What does that say about how we are demonstrating Christian love to our neighbors?
It has been said by many people that anti-Semitism, the prejudice and hatred of Jewish people, is the barometer of the health of human society. Anti-Semitism is reported by the Anti-Defamation League to be at historically high levels in the United States. While anti-Semitism has always boiled beneath the surface, it has never totally disappeared, and I don’t believe it will be a problem that humanity can solve. There are some worldly problems that only God will be able to solve, and anti-Semitism, in my opinion, is one of them. However, that does not excuse our indifference as Christians.
Although it is not new to our generation and not limited to anti-Semitism, the amount of hatred, emotional immaturity, and behavior that frequently happens inside and outside of our churches, sometimes in the name of Christ, is outrageous and an embarrassment. It only serves to severely damage the cause of Christ and the example we are called to set.
We should never hear someone say, “It is so hard living in a Christian country.” When we hear that, it is clear that we are not following our Lord’s explicit command to care for our neighbors as a society.
In Luke 10, Jesus tells us the parable of the Good Samaritan in response to a lawyer asking Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Although Jesus does not reveal the identity of the man who was robbed and left dying on the road, it is likely he was Jewish. Samaritans and Jews did not associate with one another in the time of Jesus (John 4:9). When the hero, the neighbor, in the parable is proved to be the Samaritan who helps the wounded man using his own resources, Jesus’ command in verse 37 is “Go and do likewise.”
We should never hear someone say, “It is so hard living in a Christian country.” When we hear that, it is clear that we are not following our Lord’s explicit command to care for our neighbors as a society. Our neighbors are not just the pastor and his wife, church elders, or others within our normal sphere of influence. Our neighbors are the people we don’t normally associate with. Our neighbors are the people we did not invite to Easter dinner. Our neighbors are those of other religions, races, and cultures. Our neighbors are on the other side of the political aisle.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 NIV
I would like to challenge all Americans who call themselves Christians to increasingly and ceaselessly love your neighbors, all of your neighbors, in the name of Jesus Christ, the author of our salvation, so that they will know we are Christians by our love, not by how hard we make it to live amongst us.