What happens when the most loving thing you can do is tell someone something they do not want to hear?
This is exactly the issue with Jewish evangelism. Our Jewish people do not want to hear the gospel; many think they know what we are going to say and have already decided it does not apply to them. The most loving thing we can do is to tell them, as carefully as possible, what Jesus has done for them. Yet many Christians are finding it difficult to believe that Jews really do need Jesus. Why?
The Jewish people have walked a long road of persecution. Sadly, church history has been a major intersection on that road. Christians are becoming increasingly aware of that history, and of the fact that some who claimed to represent Jesus used His name to commit atrocities against the Jewish people. Many Christians are now deeply sensitized to anything that smacks of anti-Semitism. As Jews for Jesus, we are grateful for that sensitivity, especially when it leads people to be extra tactful and loving in sharing the gospel.
At the same time, some Christian friends have taken their sensitivity in a different direction. They have concluded that Jewish people do not need Jesus, and that it is unkind and arrogant—even anti-Semitic—to suggest that they do. In many cases, these conclusions are drawn from discussions with Jewish friends whose opinions these Christians greatly value.
And yet Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6). We believe that accepting Christ’s claims means accepting the privilege and the burden of communicating His claims to others, even if they are insulted by the prospect.
In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul spoke of a partial hardening, a spiritual blindness that has come to the people of Israel. If the Bible is not God’s truth for us, such talk about blindness and hardening is demeaning. But if the Bible is true, the reality is that Jewish people as a whole are committed to disbelieving the gospel because they cannot, at this point in history, see the truth. Paul says this “partial blindness” is not complete, nor is it permanent. Most people know that Jesus’ first followers were Jewish, and that the first Christian missionaries were “converted Jews” preaching the gospel to Gentiles. Yet, in a sense, they were not converted Jews—they were converted sinners who happened to be Jewish. And they remained Jewish, never renouncing their heritage or the faith of their ancestors. They were part of a believing remnant of Jews whom God is calling to follow Jesus. We Jews for Jesus are part of that believing remnant, and God is blessing our efforts to add to that remnant.
As Jews who believe in Jesus, we sympathize with those who feel offended by the gospel, yet we do not accept the notion that it is offensive to tell Jewish people about Jesus. We Jews who have found faith and everlasting life in Jesus recall how we once felt. Most of us considered anyone who confronted us with the gospel a minor annoyance at best, if not a major aggravation. Now we thank God for those who cared enough to tell us what we did not wish to hear.
Our mission is not to intrude. It is simply to call attention to the Savior in ways that Jewish people cannot dismiss as being for someone else. We believe it is possible to draw attention to Jesus in respectful, loving and good-natured ways.
We are grateful for the many Christians who stand with us and are willing to face discomfort for the sake of Christ, and for their concern to see Jewish friends heaven bound. Still, the controversial nature of our cause makes it difficult for us to gain the friendship and support of many Christians who feel it’s not polite to tell people who have their own religion that they need Jesus.
We do not buttonhole or force people to converse with us. Once we present people with an invitation to interact with our message—be it a gospel tract, a billboard, a gospel ad or even a phone call—they can choose to avoid, embrace or seek further information about Jesus.
How does the Jewish community respond to Jews for Jesus?
We have organized opposition that, oddly enough, encourages us. Our opposition points to the fact that more and more Jews are coming to faith in Jesus. We are honored to be “blamed,” but God deserves the credit. We lift up Jesus, but He alone can draw Jews and Gentiles to Himself.
Since we are highly visible, many Jewish leaders have denounced our organization. Many attempt to “de-legitimize” us. Some do so by alleging that we are a cult or an exotic new religion. Most will say we are dishonest and disingenuous for refusing to give up our Jewish identity since they believe anyone who believes in Jesus cannot be Jewish. In part, their attempts to undermine our credibility are intended to keep Jewish seekers away from us. However, our opposition also understands that we depend upon the friendship and support of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Statements undermining the integrity of Jewish evangelism in general and Jews for Jesus in particular drive a wedge between us and many members of Christ’s Body.
How successful is your opposition?
When it comes to keeping Jewish people from hearing us, our opposition mostly affects those who are not prepared to “go against the flow.” Frankly, Jewish people who would seriously consider Jesus are already questioning religious authorities and realizing they must investigate certain issues for themselves. Some may initially be leery of Jews for Jesus because of things they have heard. Yet when the time comes, chances are they will find out for themselves who we are and what we believe.
Ironically, our opposition seems to have more success within the Church. It has become increasingly popular among liberal and even among some not-so-liberal Christians to say that Jews have salvation apart from Christ. Therefore, they say that evangelizing Jewish people is an unnecessary, even un-Christian, endeavor. This is what happens when Christians view the Great Commission through the eyes of unbelieving friends and colleagues.
Whereas empathy for the sensitivities of Jewish people is appreciated, it becomes tragic when allowed to take the place of a Bible-based philosophy of missions. How can one surmise from Scripture that it is insulting to speak to Jews of the love of Jesus, who came as a Jew? How can it be insulting to tell of the great sacrifice He made for all people? How can it be insulting to offer the abundant life He gives?
Unbelieving Jewish people who are willing to go against the flow to explore the gospel have a sense of what is at stake—their own salvation. Unfortunately, for some Christians, the friendship or respect of unsaved Jewish people seems to determine their view of Jewish evangelism. Saying that Jesus is the only way to salvation would mean risking rejection. Further, a Christian leader who publicly endorses Jews for Jesus may draw quite a bit of fire, and few are willing to do so over this issue. As Jews who are for Jesus, we have no choice but to make the statements and take the fire.
If we were not convinced that Jesus is the only way of salvation, we would not have given up the respect and acceptance of the Jewish community. Since we are convinced that the salvation of our people is at stake, we have to reach out and take the risk.
We are looking for more people who are willing to take the risk with us.
Please prayerfully consider the cause of Jewish evangelism and ways to be involved: perhaps through finances, prayer, talking to your pastor about having one of our speakers, or maybe even volunteer work. We will gladly send more information about these opportunities.