By J. STUART CONNING, D.D.
It has been my privilege
through a long lifetime to become acquainted with many Jews who have become
Christians. With some of these Christian
Jews I have been closely associated, and they have become cherished and highly
esteemed friends. With hundreds of
others I have had those occasional contacts which enable one to share some of
their experiences and form a just estimate of their character and worth. Most of them live in the
It is in my heart to say a few things about these friends of mine that may be of general interest, and about the things we may learn from them as we journey together through the years.
Every Jew I have known has had to make a real sacrifice in becoming a follower of Christ. The adherent of no other faith has to encounter greater difficulties in becoming a Christian. Expulsion from the synagogue, ostracism by the community, loss of employment, scorn and abuse from one’s own family and friends, the charge of being renegades from their faith and traitors to their people are often the price a Jew must pay in taking upon himself the name of Christ, the greatest Jew of history. Yet for love of Christ they have sincerely accepted all the hardships, and gladly confess Jesus Christ to be their Messiah and Lord. And never have I found one who has counted the cost too great to pay for the blessings that have come to him from his new-found faith.
It is interesting to note that those Jews who respond to the appeal of the Gospel are, as far as my knowledge goes, those who have been loyal to the faith of their fathers. In these days many Jews have become thoroughly secularized. They have given up most of the ritual observances of Judaism, and rarely set foot in a synagogue. The only worship they render is to the gods of pleasure and gain. They belong to the godless multitude of our time who must be won, just as other pagans, to a belief in God, and as sinners to repentance and pardon through the Divine Redeemer. But Jews who are sincerely religious, who believe in the God of Israel, and in the scriptures of the Old Testament as the Word of God, are open to the appeal of Christ as the promised Messiah, when wisely and sympathetically approached. They find that He fulfils the ancient prophecies, and answers the cry of their hearts for pardon and peace and fellowship with God. He provides the key that fits every ward of the Old Testament’s complicated lock.
I have been greatly impressed with the fact that Jews almost universally testify that the main factor which led to their acceptance of the Christian faith was the friendly interest of some sincere and warm-hearted Christian. Other impressions may have been received from Christian literature, occasional contacts with individual Christians, or messages through radio or press, but the winning factor has been the friendship of some earnest Christian whose love for Christ has led him to share with his Jewish friend the treasures he had found in Christ. Friendship is the alembic that can dissolve suspicion and prejudice and open the way for the Divine Spirit to work His miracle of grace. It is here that Christians have so miserably failed to take advantage of their contacts with Jews, and it is here that churches having Jewish neighbours, can render a service of incalculable worth by establishing with them friendly relations and exhibiting to them the spirit of Christ.
It is a striking fact that
it is Christ Himself who makes the mightiest appeal to Jews. To the average Jew He is entirely
unknown. Knowing the special attraction
that Jesus has always had for His own people, Jewish leaders have diligently
sought by every means to immunize their people from His influence. Any reference to Him was deprecated. The very use of His name was banned. The New Testament was a forbidden book.
Attendance at any place of Christian worship was condemned as a sin. When any reference was made to Jesus, it was
as “the hanged one” or as “the troubler of
What is also characteristic
of Jewish Christians is the ardour and intensity which the new faith
inspires. Jews are a warm-hearted, demonstrative,
and active people. What they believe
they believe intensely, and what they do they do intensely. And when they become followers of Christ they
display an ardour and zeal that distinguishes them from their more formal and
less enthusiastic Aryan brethren. They
become active church members and are zealous in their efforts to advance the
cause of Christ. Out of all proportion
to their numbers they furnish the Church with officers, teachers, pastors, and
missionaries. The names of Neander, Pascal,
.‑The Hebrew Christian Quarterly.
The population of the world (says The Prophetic News) is said to have doubled in the last century, but the number of Jews has been multiplied by five. Think of the influence of this little nation. Only, those who do not know, “act as if the Jew stopped thinking 2,000 years ago.” The list of world names is long, but take these well known to us: in art, Mendelssohn for music, Heine for poetry, Sarah Bernhardt for the stage; in philosophy, Spinoza, whom Renan called “the greatest Jew of modern times,” and Bergson; in psychology, Freud, the psychoanalyst; in science, Albert Einstein, the incomprehensible; in politics, Disraeli, Queen Victoria’s favourite minister, Earl Rufus Daniel Isaacs Reading, Chief justice of Britain during World War I, Viceroy of India from 1921-26, and Henry Morgenthau, the efficient U.S. ambassador at Constantinople during the last war; in Christian scholarship, Neander and Edersheim.
Fairly recent figures gave more than seventy per cent. of the Jewish people as engaged in trade and industry, almost seven per cent. in professional and governmental occupations, and about five per cent. in agriculture. Had Jews no special ability in finance, they would have learned nothing from history, yet their control of money makes them all Shylocks to the Gentiles. It was foretold. As Isaiah says :‑“Ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves” (Is. 61: 6). Zephaniah adds his testimony:‑“I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame” (Zeph. 3: 19).
But with all their influence
The Jewish Missionary
Magazine says:‑“According to the Survey
Graphic, there are about eight hundred organizations in the
A CONCENTRATION CAMP
[This testimony of a Jewish Christian, Otto Samuel, is of deep value to us all, standing, as we are,
on the threshold of coming tribulation. – D. M. Panton.]
After the first week we had to join those who worked daily at hard labour. The day began and ended with a tiresome roll call, and woe to anyone who failed to respond! The whole camp had to stand at the same spot until he had been found. You can read about what they did with the runaway in the book, I Was in Hell with Niemoeller, by Leo Stein, where he tells about the “Dead Box.” Some work was so exhausting that men fell down and died; other work was useless and ridiculous. For some time a group of us had to sit in the cold straightening nails. In winter they gave us summer suits, and in summer, winter suits.
We were allowed to read only the Nazi newspapers, but they could not take away from us the Word of God stored in our memory and written in our hearts. I found unspeakable comfort in the Word, and I prayed unceasingly day and night, calling on the name of the Lord. His name was a strong tower. Never were my prayers so effective, never had I felt the nearness of the Lord so strongly as in that camp. Through His Word God spoke to me; and through prayer I spoke to Him. I had training in loving faith, and the wall between the Lord and me became quite transparent.
I had one precious experience. I found that while the Lord did not keep me from shivering and suffering torture in the cold, yet He did work by His mighty power in the midst of my sufferings, keeping my fingers, hands, and limbs from becoming gangrenous. Realizing this, my heart was overflowing with joy and happiness.
All these depressing material conditions affected us emotionally. Being the pastor in whom these unhappy people confided, I witnessed moving experiences. My greatest danger was a temptation to doubt God and His wisdom, and this was the source of all the other mental troubles. The worst hour was dawn, lying on our straw mattresses after a torturing, sleepless night.
Thus I found how dangerous
are these poisoning emotions: Fear, despair, depression, and melancholy. There was only one panacea against them,‑I
want to emphasize it,.only one, - and that was trust in Jesus Christ, our
Saviour and Redeemer. As we trusted in
Him our fears were quieted, and life in the camp became a school of
inspiration. We felt as though the veil
that separates us from Him became thin and transparent. He gave us His peace and strengthened our
tormented hearts. So, as the Lord had
helped in the German concentration camp amidst the cruelties of the Storm
Troopers and the danger of frostbite, by His mighty resurrection power, so
again I experienced the same power in the camps of southern France. Again and again He delivered me from fear,
depression, hopelessness, and melancholy. There was no fear of the present or future, no
fear of death or sickness, no fear of the Gestapo (which certainly had its men
in the camps of so-called unoccupied
‑The Hebrew Christian.