Rom 2:25–29, Revelation 3:7–13
The struggle between Jew and Christian has long been the case. Initially, there was a mix of those with good motives (e.g., preserving the “true” faith, protection from apostasy) and bad motives (e.g., pride, influence). Then there were those who regularly challenged the theology for various reasons.
Paul regularly had to oppose them to protect the fledgling churches. Oddly, we ought to be grateful, for without opposition we might not have even had the letters that we have. One could argue that it is because of the opposition that the church grew as it did (and many do argue that to this day). Without question, opposition forced the church to figure out what it did believe, wrestling with it over generations.
Paul struggled to separate the Jewish Laws and customs from the new Christian life, and due to the Jewish basis of Christianity it continued to be an issue. Yet, what was an issue of understanding became something much darker.
In Revelation 3:9, John wrote “…synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews…” This phrasing, which was intended to illustrate the same struggle that Paul had, became a verse of hatred. It’s easy to see why. Seemingly tying the Jews to Satan is pretty inflammatory. Christians for generations vilified and demonized Jews based on verses like this and an erroneously singular focus on who was the root cause of Jesus’ crucifixion (the Jews, rather than all of us). Some interpreters are quick to point out that what is translated as Satan is satanas, a Greek take on the Aramaic/Hebrew word for adversary. The question for some becomes is this a proper name (the Adversary) or a descriptive name (an adversary). The reality is that there is an adversarial relationship toward the church, trying to skew its theology.
The reason this odd historical piece is important is that the church, still, often resorts to adversarial/enemy language when discussing or interacting with those whose theology is different. We cannot behave that way, for while we were sinners (enemies of God), even before we were born, Jesus died for us. Imagine if Jesus treated us as if we were his enemy.
1) Is there someone you have treated as an enemy, that God is calling you to love?
2) Is there language that you have been using the frames others as the enemy or adversary? (This is beyond just not agreeing with them on something)