One of my dearest friends at work is a secular Jewish man with a very interesting and complicated history. He’s a great family man, a gentle soul, loves his kids, his job, and is the most reasonable man you will ever encounter. But perhaps the most informative piece of his story is that his father was a Holocaust survivor. This one fact, understandably, influences his worldview on and of just about everything.
We often go out of our way to arrange to have lunch together; he’s good company, easy to talk to, and always assumes the best intentions of whatever you may be saying. As you can imagine, our conversations are varied, opinionated, civilized, and irresistible for bystanders to not want to join. Over the years, we’ve gotten to the point where we can finish each other’s sentences and know when the other person is ready to interrupt.
There’s no yelling, no name-calling, no one is insulted and, in the end, having resolved none of the world’s ills, we go back to work. It’s safe to say that most of our discussions are not just enjoyable to us but the room is usually very quiet around us as if everyone else is just enjoying the exchange as much as we are.
The True Gospel
One of our most recent conversations had to do with, as he was sharing with me, the fact that many Jews, although they understand that their relationship with God is one where He punishes them when they go astray and then takes them back after His anger has subsided, feel that the Holocaust was a bridge too far; he argued that the scale and scope of the Holocaust was a “breaking of Covenant” of sorts. So far, none of this is scandalous to either one of us: we often talk of religion and politics and other hot-button topics without the need to resort to HR for sensitivity training or to call 911 to break up a brawl.
However, this time it was different. One of the bystanders just couldn’t help herself. She had to chime in! When he said the part about Jewish people feeling like the Holocaust was a “break” in the Covenant, she sprung up, turned her chair around, got closer to us, and said, “Yes, I can see that. What kind of God would let such an atrocity take place?”. At this point, I got very quiet. Not because I had nothing to say but because trying to reason with this third party is an exercise in futility. My friend, trying to stoke the flames a little bit, says, “I think he disagrees with you”.
Now, at this point, it would be important to note that the woman who got involved in our conversation is a self-described practicing Catholic. The importance of that will become apparent shortly. As my friend is finishing his instigation of the matter at my expense, she turns to me and says, “why, do you think it’s okay that God let the holocaust happen?” My response, in my view, was even-keeled, poignant, and to the point.
“He watched as Jesus was crucified and died an excruciatingly painful death on the Cross and that didn’t move Him from His throne, why should the sins of any other men enrage Him to the point of coming down from Heaven?”
What she said next was neither out of character nor unexpected. But in its own way, unbelievable. “Yeah, that doesn’t justify it for me”, she said. Now, understandably, my answer was not the only possible answer or perhaps even the best possible answer.
The conversation went on for a little while longer with both my friend and I trying to understand what she meant as well as trying to take her words in the best possible way. None of it helped. Here was a Christian that didn’t believe the sin-erasing, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ sufficiently qualified as 1) not as worthy of God’s divine intervention as the Holocaust was and, 2) that the horrors, crimes, and sins of the Holocaust were not covered by the blood of Jesus. In an attempt to be as reasonable as possible I asked her to explain and restate her assertion. Unfortunately, I had understood correctly the first time.
To be clear, this is not about the Holocaust or any other of man’s atrocities through the centuries.. Nor was this an attempt to deny the Holocaust. I am, as I’m sure you are, pro-Israel and pro-Jewish People. Surely the Holocaust was an atrocity of biblical proportions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first nor the last. The Bible and history recount the brutality of the exiles of the Jews to Babylon where unspeakable horrors were perpetrated on God’s people back then as well.
Any fair-minded person could see that the history of the Jewish people has more than its fair share of such atrocities. From the Pharaohs to Nero to the Inquisition to modern-day, Jewish history is crimson red with the blood of their people and the restoration of the people through a remnant, as God promised to their forefathers.
Having agreed to all of this, what I could not fathom is how can any Christian deny the sufficiency of Christ’s death on the Cross for any sin! Yes, there is a very “ugly” truth out there. That is that Jesus died on the Cross for Mother Teresa as much as he did for Pol-pot, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, Mao, Castro, and every other murderous demonic despot dictator in history. To deny that is to deny Jesus himself. It might not make for polite dinner conversations among the “enlightened” or the politically correct but for Christians, this has to be as plain as the nose on our face. To say otherwise is to preach a different Gospel.
Scripture teaches that Jesus forgave His own accusers and those that stoned, slapped, spat and crucified Him. Scripture teaches that He could’ve called down legions of angels to destroy it all and set Him free. Scripture also teaches that as Jesus hung on the Cross and took on the sins of the entire world, past present and future, the Father himself could not stand to look upon Him and turned away. Most assuredly, that degree of rebuke included the Romans burning the Christians as torches, the Venetians enslaving the Slavs, the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks, Nanjing, Tibet, Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan, Burma, and all the rest.
Preaching the true Gospel
In an effort to make Jesus a more palatable and “reasonable” subject for light conversations, people have created a Jesus in their own image and likeness. A Jesus that picks and chooses who can have access to eternal life, that shed His blood on a selective basis; a Jesus that plays favorites. Truth be told, Jesus taught us that the mere thought of murder is murder. And so, although we may not have killed people by the millions like others in history, how many times have we wished harm upon someone, both before and after coming to Jesus?
In the end, here’s what I know and can attest to: I’m glad that Jesus died for those men as well. Because if it is true that we deem ourselves better than others (as Paul teaches us not to) then there is hope for me. If God is willing to forgive those who were forgiven much, forgiving my little is a no-brainer. And that’s the Gospel that we should be preaching! You may not deem yourself the chief of sinners but remember that He died for the chief of sinners as well.
What a message of hope that is to anyone that finds themselves in a place where they think that God can’t see them, help them, reach them, save them! We were not once such as these? Neck deep in porn and adultery and addictions and lying and cheating and drunkenness and debauchery. Believe me, friend, I remember where He found me, and if one day I wake up and find one of these despots in heaven with me it will just be more proof of how amazingly immeasurable God’s Grace really is!
Bondservant to Jesus Christ, Married to Michele, Dad to Madelyn, Claudia, and Joseph and educator by trade, apologist by calling and saved by Grace. Antonio loves to read, write, and discuss all-things-apologetics. He has many passions in life including reaching, teaching, and keeping men for Jesus Christ. Waiting on God’s big reveal: Antonio knows He has something beautiful in mind.