God’s Commandment against murder (Exodus 20:13) curbs some violence in society (1 Timothy 1:9) but not all. Twelve people inside a California bar were killed November 7 by a gunman who posted to social media during the shooting that he had no reason for doing it, and eleven people inside a Pennsylvania Synagogue were killed October 27 by a gunman who was apparently motivated by anti-Semitism.
Every life has equal value: inside or outside of the womb and regardless of one’s citizenship, occupation, race, or religion. Yet, we might be especially concerned about violence inside a place of worship targeting those of a particular religion.
While anti-Semitism can be defined as racial hostility, prejudice, or discrimination against any Semitic person, including Arabs and Assyrians, more commonly anti-Semitism is limited to national or religious hostility, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews. (The concept of anti-Semitism originated in the 1800s but is often retroactively applied to prior anti-Jewish incidents.)
From a Christian perspective, all people, Jews and non-Jews, are sinners (Romans 3:9-20, 22b-23), and Jesus calls all people, Jews and non-Jews, to discipleship through Baptism and teaching (Matthew 28:19-20). Repentance and faith in His death and resurrection results in the forgiveness of sins and so also in life and salvation. The Christian Church Triumphant is a countless multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, praising God for His salvation in Jesus Christ (Revelation 7:9-10).
Literal descendants of Noah’s son Shem (whose name gives us “Semitic”) through Jacob (also called Israel) and his son Judah (whose name gives us “Jew”) have a special place in salvation history, especially as the ancestors of Christ (Romans 3:1-2; 9:4-5), but they will be lost with every other unrepentant unbeliever unless they by faith become spiritual descendants of their ancestor Abraham (Romans 4:1-25).
The Jews’ lack of repentance and faith prompted Martin Luther’s controversial writings against them, somewhat typical of his day and unique to territories with a single religion. Today, Christians abhor violence against anyone, call all to repent and believe, and welcome all into the Church now, to avoid the torments of hell for eternity.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.