The Jewish community's opposition to our ministry stems from the refusal of its leaders to accept the fact that a Jew who believes in Jesus can and does remain Jewish. Jewish leaders feel threatened by our efforts because they equate our success with pro-moting the destruction of the Jews.
This is a fallacy, because believing in Jesus, Israel's Messiah, is the most Jewish thing we can do. Rather than destroying our ethnic identity, faith in Y'shua frees us from the confines of rabbinic tradition so that we can become the kind of scriptural Jews God wants all of us to be.
Nevertheless, the more successful our efforts, the more threatened the Jewish community seems to feel, and the more vigorously it tries to combat our ministry. Recently we have noted organized opposition and attempts to spoil our relationships with supporting churches, but we are not dismayed. All that opposition must mean we are doing something right!
The senior pastor of a church in Amarillo, where our Liberated Wailing Wall was to minister, received a manipulative letter from Jerry Lotman, president of Temple B'nai Israel.
Mr. Lotman wrote that the rabbi and synagogue board were saddened" by Pastor Meenan's plans to have our Jews for Jesus group at his church because it was "not in keeping with the prevailing spirit of mutual respect and courtesy" among the various houses of worship there. Lotman went on to say that since Jews for Jesus, by its own admission, was a missionary organization that "specifically targeted" Jews, Pastor Meenan, by sanctioning and aiding our efforts, was sending a negative message to his Jewish neighbors about the "legitimacy of their religious identity." Lotman closed his letter with, "In a town where, despite broad differences in doctrine, tolerance has generally prevailed, we find this most disappointing. We hope that in the future you will consider what message church programs, particularly those brought from outside, may send to the community.…"
It would seem that Mr. Lotman, the rabbi and the congregation of B'nai Israel want tolerance in the city of Amarillo for everyone—except Jews who want publicly to express their faith in Jesus! But we feel no need to defend ourselves. Pastor Meenan adequately and articulately did that for us in his response to Mr. Lotman. He wrote:
"…I fully appreciate the perspective from which you write, but I sense that you do not fully understand nor begin to appreciate the role of the Christian church in evangelism.
"Perhaps my explaining…will ameliorate some of your concerns.… The Christian church is under biblical mandate for world evangelization. It is, therefore, part of the very essence and fibre of who and what we are as Christians. Dr. Luke, the traveling companion of the Apostle Paul in the first century C.E., relates instruction Jesus gave to His disciples after His resurrection: 'repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in the name of Jesus the Messiah to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem' (Luke 24:47, my emphasis).
"Clearly, the good news of Jesus is for Jew as well as Gentile. It is the responsibility of the church to proclaim the message to everyone without exception. Historically, the church has frequently targeted and continues to target specific people groups—particularly tribes in Africa, castes in India, student groups in America, athletes, businessmen etc., and yes, even Jews. That is what the organization Jews for Jesus is attempting to do. They are a group of Jews who believe Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and therefore an integral part of the new world order in which all are one new creation.
"It is without apology that the church tells and retells the incomparable story of God's redemption of all people through His Son, Jesus the Jew. I hope you will communicate to your board that it is not our intent, in any way, to offend our Jewish neighbors. Quite the contrary, while we understand your position, we are fully convinced the Messiah has come! Not always have we been sensitive to people to whom proclamation has been made and, for that, we must apologize. But do not insist on our silence on this matter to any people group. It is our nature to tell this story of Jesus to all who may listen beginning in Jerusalem!
"In that regard, we stand in the tradition of two of our early church leaders who were forbidden to speak to their fellow Jews about Jesus and who retorted to the accusatory Sanhedrin, 'We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.'
"Under these circumstances, then, I hope you better understand why we were delighted to host the Liberated Wailing Wall concert at First Presbyterian Church and would have no hesitancy inviting them to return."
We encountered additional organized opposition when Moishe Rosen came to the Dallas area. He was to speak at seven local churches, and five of them received complaints decrying his presence as a speaker and demanding that the service be cancelled. Though ostensibly the letters were sent as independent messages from various rabbis or Jewish leaders, they contained almost identical wording—an obvious indication that they had emanated from one source—and they all accused Jews for Jesus of deception and anti-Semitism. Thankfully, none of the pastors gave in to the pressure; and though the incident was unfortunate, it may have given those men of God some new insight into the persecution we Jews for Jesus often endure for the sake of bringing the gospel to our own people.
Later that week, further evidence of organized opposition came to light when we learned that a group of anti-missionaries had booked space at a hotel for the same night we were holding a banquet there. Anticipating that they would try to disrupt us, we merely arranged for adequate security to prevent that and carried on as we normally would.
Sure enough, as we entered the banquet area that evening, there stood a handful of tough-looking men in Orthodox garb. At first they tried, unsuccessfully, to misdirect our guests into their meeting room instead of ours. Then, once our banquet began, a couple of the brawniest of the would-be troublemakers tried to force their way in. They were denied entrance by the security guard.
The next day the anti-missionaries alleged to the media that they had been "victims of religious discrimination" because we had not let them attend our function. To which we replied, "What discrimination? If they had bought tickets in advance like everyone else, they would not have been turned away!" Anyhow, it's just as well they did not buy tickets. If they came, they would only have tried to create a disturbance. As it was, we had a good time without them. And besides, they wouldn't have wanted our food. The hotel kitchen was not strictly kosher under rabbinic law!
A Victorious Note
In a recent civil liberties trial God showed Himself strong and able to protect us. We had not sued for financial reasons, but for our civil rights and religious liberty. We sought legal recourse because we could not allow the opposition to continue telling people with whom messianic Jews did business that we used fraudulent and deceptive methods of evangelism.
The case involved a 1987 incident. We had scheduled one of our Ingatherings at a hotel in the Catskill Mountains, and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) had pressured and forced the hotel owner to cancel our contract. It took six years of hearings and depositions to get the case before a jury, and after two days of trial testimony the JCRC approached us to settle. In the settlement agreement the JCRC stipulated that it "had no evidence" that we Jews for Jesus had made statements in the course of our missionary activities without believing those statements to be true. We won a moral victory and regained some of our legal expenses. Although the litigation was a time-consuming ordeal, it had to be done because the public had a right to know how several Jewish agencies had tried to prevent us from renting facilities, holding public meetings and practicing our free exercise of religion as Jews. It was not our desire to punish our own people; God alone is the ultimate judge. Yet having won this case, we think that our detractors will have second thoughts about engaging in unfair and illegal actions against our missionary work.
We don't mind being a lightning rod for honest reaction to the gospel message. Nevertheless, we will not permit a violation of our religious and civil liberties to go unchallenged. Too much is at stake for all Christians, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.
Do we mind opposition? It can be a nuisance. Do we feel defeated? No! We know that God is on our side because we are on His side, and by His grace we intend to go right on proclaiming the gospel! As the Apostle Paul wrote, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).