Conversion of the Gentiles—The Modernist Way
And the sons of foreigners shall build up thy walls,
and their kings shall minister unto thee;
for in my wrath I smote thee,
but in my favor have I had mercy on thee.
The Rabbi said to me, Why do you find it necessary to proselytize us?” I think my answer may have shocked him. “We don’t proselytize; you should do that. We evangelize, and there is a difference.”
A proselyte is a gentile convert to the Jewish religion-specifically one who puts himself under the Law of Moses. A person who is evangelized puts himself under the blood of Christ. Of course, my rabbi friend was not really interested in those fine points, and he presumed that I didn’t understand Jewish history. One of the arguments he used to discourage Christians from telling Jews about Christ was that it is wrong to seek to convert the Jews since Jews don’t try to convert anyone to the Jewish religion.
But the rabbi, or anyone else who uses such a specious argument to stop evangelism, should know better. A recent book published by the Hebrew Union College, Conversion to Judaism-From the Biblical Period to the Present, shows that in the past, making proselytes was a major endeavor of Jews. Rabbi Alexander Schindler, President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, passionately appeals to Jews to become active in converting gentiles: “We live in America today. No repressive laws restrain us. The fear of persecution no longer inhibits us. Now there is no earthly reason why we cannot reassert our ancient vocation and open our arms to our newcomers.”
It is vital that Christians realize that Rabbi Schindler calls seeking converts to Judaism our ancient vocation.”
Until now, there were only three possible reasons why Jews had not sought gentile converts to Judaism:
1. The fear of angering the church and facing the subsequent persecution.
2. Racial or ethnic prejudice that gentiles weren’t good enough to become Jews.
3. The feeling that it wasn’t necessary, because all religions are pretty much the same.
But now there is a concerted effort by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations toward proselytizing the “unchurched.” The U.A.H.C. represents the Reform wing of Judaism, interestingly enough.
In the opinion of this writer, evangelical Christians need not be alarmed. When Reform Jews talk about winning converts, they have little commitment to the Biblical concept of conversion, which is a turning from sin toward God (see Psalm 51:13). Actually, God doesn’t enter Reform thinking very much as the reason for calling non-Jews to accept Judaism. The rabbis’ concern is not that people need to turn from the darkness of sin toward the Light of God, but rather that non-Jews must be recruited to fill the diminishing ranks of Judaism.
Perhaps the rabbis should inquire, “Why are so many Jews no longer interested in the Jewish religion?” The answer is complex, but I feel that modern Judaism has little to offer other than a benevolent form of humanism, somewhat sanctified by liturgy. People in general and Jews in particular are hungry for God, but glutted on what is known as religion. Modern Judaism has little to say to the sinner except to call upon him to reform his ways.
On the other hand, the Biblical Christian calls for true conversion, and the Good News is not merely that God asks the sinner to repent, but that the Almighty provides the penitent with the power, through the Holy Spirit, to have the victory. The Good News is simply that there is a Savior who can give the abundant life to all peoples of all cultures.
Judaism, in calling for converts, is inviting the gentiles to become members of an ethnic group.
The Christian who evangelizes is calling on people to be joined to God.
What Jews have to offer is acceptance into the ranks of a noble people with a magnificent ancient tradition.
What Christians have to offer is not in the past, but Abundant Life for now and Eternal Life forever.
But the best news is this: anyone who is in God’s place of redemption, no matter what his culture or background, is just as Jewish as Jesus, just as righteous as the Savior, touching the Law, and can readily please God. If you are in Christ, you are Abraham’s seed. So think about it and rejoice that Jesus made you kosher!