He Said then She Said: Helping Jewish-Gentile Couples Find Spiritual Harmony
|Book Title:||He Said then She Said: Helping Jewish-Gentile Couples Find Spiritual Harmony|
|Artist:||Paige Saunders & David Yapp (Artist)|
|Review Date:||September 21, 2016|
Why You Need This
Over the last decade and a half, my ministry with Jews for Jesus has focused on working with Jewish-Gentile couples. Sometimes they are referred to as interfaith couples, but they are often religious by the social labels only. Perhaps you’re the partner of one of those couples. Maybe you’re a parent whose child was raised as a Christian and is now in a relationship, potentially leading to marriage, with a delightful, bright and winsome, but obviously non-Christian, Jewish partner. Or, you might be a Christian or a couple who are neighbors or close friends with a Jewish-Gentile couple. And perhaps you’ve been frustrated by your lack of experience or wisdom in cross-cultural communications in witnessing. I think we have a resource for you.
All Communication is Cross-Cultural
Most of us experience a common frustration in communication. We forget that all communication is cross-cultural. We assume that everybody means the same thing by the words that we use together. That difference in culture is especially present in Jewish-Gentile couples. I once asked a Christian, in the presence of her Jewish boyfriend, “What does the word ‘Jesus’ mean?” She answered, “Doesn’t it translate to Messiah?” Before I answered her, I turned to her Jewish boyfriend to ask his understanding or common use of the word “Jesus.” His candor and honesty about how the word was used actually shocked her, “Uh, it’s what my family members say when we’re frustrated.” Now, that’s a cross-cultural disconnect. Actually, the discussion gave me an opportunity to explain that the name Jesus, translated from the original Yeshua in Hebrew, literally means Savior. It was the name that was given to Him by the angel in Matthew 1:21, since He would “save His people from their sins.” Both partners used the name “Jesus,” but neither of them had a sense about what it really meant.
So, all communication is cross-cultural. We have to learn to appreciate differences in language, behaviors, traditional beliefs and sources of authority in different cultures. A good example is found in the widely disparate reactions to Mel Gibson’s 2004 epic drama, The Passion of the Christ. Many movie critics said that Jewish people and evangelicals reacted as if they had seen “two different movies.”
Overcoming the cultural and sociological differences between Gentiles and Jews is an important piece to communicating the gospel effectively. That message is the only hope for eternal life. So Christians need to be cross-culturally sensitive and thoughtful in how they present that message.
The Trend and the Need
For more than two decades, the American Jewish community has been undergoing a dramatic demographic change. Prior to 2003, intermarriage was considered a taboo by the American Jewish community. But the attitude was slow to catch up with the fact that since 1990, the Jewish-Gentile intermarriage rate has exceeded 50%. It is to the point that 45% of all American Jews are now intermarried and raising children in cross-cultural and interfaith homes. Social research has shown that 75% of those marriages end in divorce or marital dissatisfaction. Research also shows that one of the greatest challenges in Jewish-Gentile marriages is posed by the inability to find spiritual harmony.
And yet, few churches, Messianic congregations or individual evangelicals are prepared for cross-cultural spiritual communication with Jewish people. Much more needs to be done to help the American evangelical Christian community to be less ethnocentric, more embracing of cultural diversity and much more comfortable relating to non-Christians and people who are from non-Christian religious traditions.
First, there is great hope in facing the challenges. In the context of Jewish-Gentile couples, the gospel is a natural fit for all people, and especially Jewish people. Its context and cultural background is told throughout the history of the Israelite nation and across almost all 66 books of the Bible.
Second, the gospel is an effective hope of salvation for all people, including Jewish people. In fact, John 14:6, spoken by Jesus, was addressed to a group of Jewish friends celebrating Passover with Him. Yeshua, Jesus, is the hope of salvation for all people, including the Jewish people.
And third, attitudes in the American Jewish community, and especially among milennials, have changed dramatically. There is a greater openness to the gospel now. A recent Barna study found that American Jewish millennials are interested and open to learning more about both the Christian faith and the traditions of Jewish religion. Jesus is no longer a forbidden subject.
I’ve written a workbook for ordinary Christians to offer guidance in helping Jewish-Gentile couples find spiritual harmony. It is the culmination of social research and two decades of practical ministry application working with Jewish-Gentile couples.
The workbook features exercises that you can do at the end of each chapter. It’s intended for small group training within a church or home group. Our staff is glad to offer additional training. And we’re glad to develop partnerships with Christians and congregations that are reaching out to this growing population of Jewish-Gentile couples.
Tuvya Zaretsky is one of the founders of the Jews for Jesus ministry. He was the first field missionary beginning his service in February 1974. Tuvya continues to serve the Lord, now as the Director of Staff Development internationally, based out of the Los Angeles office. He also chairs the Board for the Jews for Jesus branch in Tel Aviv, Israel. Tuvya was raised in Northern California in the institutions of American Judaism. During his bar mitzvah at age thirteen, Tuvya read from Isaiah 6:1-8 and declared with the prophet, Hineni-Here I am, send me!" However, his search for God and spiritual truth didn't come into focus until ten years later, when a Christian colleague encouraged him to seek God in the pursuit of truth. Tuvya came to believe in Y'shua (Jesus) on December 7, 1970. Ever since, he has been joyfully saying to God, "Hineni-Here am I." The full story is available by that title, in a booklet form here. Tuvya has provided the leadership of Jews for Jesus branches and evangelistic campaigns in major cities of the US and in Israel. He headed up the Las Vegas Behold Your God (BYG) campaign in 2005 and co-led the 2006 BYG outreach in New Jersey. He is now also an administrator for the website www.JewishGentileCouples.com. In April, 1989, Zaretsky was present at the Willowbank Consultation on the Christian Gospel and the Jewish people, that produced the watershed Willowbank Declaration. Tuvya has presented missiology papers at the Evangelical Theological Society, the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE) and at the Global Diaspora Missiology Consultation in 2006. He currently serves as president for the International Coordinating Committee of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, a networking body of Jewish mission agencies. He was editor of the Lausanne Occasional Paper 60, Jewish Evangelism" A Call to the Church in 2004. He was a contributing author of Israel the Land and People edited by H. Wayne House (Kregel Publishers, 1998). His doctoral dissertation, co-authored with Dr. Enoch Wan, was published as Jewish-Gentile Couples: Trends, Challenges and Hopes (William Carey Library Publishers, 2004). He authored or edited articles for the June 2006 issue of MISHKAN themed, "The Gospel and Jewish-Gentile Couples" (Jerusalem) . And in 2008 he was coordinator and contributor for the World Evangelical Alliance Consultation that produced "The Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in Europe Today". In 2013 Zaretsky was appointed to serve as the Senior Associate for Jewish Evangelism by the International Lausanne Movement. Tuvya has an M.A. in Missiology concentrating in Judaic Studies from Fuller Seminary's School of Intercultural Studies and the Doctor of Missiology degree from the Division of Intercultural Studies at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is married to Ellen, who is also a Jewish Believer in Jesus. They have three young adult children: Jesse, Abbie and Kaile.