The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry. According to the ADL, throughout history dramatizations of the passion of Jesus Christ have provoked violence against Jewish people as being “Christ killers.” It came as no surprise then that the ADL was seriously concerned immediately prior to the release of Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ.

The ADL was concerned that people viewing the film woukd leave the theater with highly stimulated emotions. That raw emotion can become the breeding ground for the rationalized hatred of or violence against Jewish people. We cannot dismiss these concerns as irrational. They are very much grounded in reality and in history. ADL representatives made it clear that these potential consequences could become reality even though completely unintended by the filmmaker.

Of course it is true that some Jews killed Jesus—2,000 years ago. But so did some Romans. To accuse all the Jews of that generation (or all the Romans) of being responsible for the death of Jesus is preposterous. And in order to hold anyone (Jew, Greek, or other) not living during that generation responsible for the death of Jesus we must move out of the realm of history and into the field of theology.

The theological truth is that we are all responsible for the death of Jesus. He took upon Himself the sins of all human beings—that includes you and it includes me. A related truth is that the evil powers and principalities at work in the spiritual realm also played a role in the death of Jesus.

Therefore, assigning blame for the death of Jesus on one particular race of human beings is an error of the gravest magnitude. Using His crucifixion as a justification for hatred and violence against anyone is in complete violation of what His death means and is as sinful as any human behavior can get.