On the Cutting Edge
I am not a recreational shopper.” Wandering from store to store is not much fun for me. Seeing too much merchandise bewilders me and makes me weary. There is one kind of store, however, that grabs my attention and gets me excited. That is a cutlery shop. I like almost everything they have, from the kitchen implements to the tiny tweezers; but I especially love the knives. I am fascinated by a good, well-sharpened knife that cuts effortlessly.
In my briefcase I carry a red Swiss Army knife. It has all kinds of blades—a screwdriver, a file and even a saw. In my pocket I carry another, smaller Swiss Army knife that has a scissor. At home I have a couple of good kitchen knives that were made in Solingen, Germany. They are high carbon steel, and each one cost me more than a day’s wages when I bought them a long time ago. I don’t like my wife Ceil to use them. It’s not that I begrudge her the use of anything I have. Everything I have is hers, and she always takes good care of my things—but she does not take good care of herself when using a knife. Several times a year she receives a cut or nick of varying severity from using a kitchen knife. For that reason she is glad to avoid using the couple of better knives that I keep razor sharp. I do use them occasionally, and when I do, it always brings me a brief moment of supreme satisfaction.
I also own an old-fashioned straight-edged razor and leather strop like those used by our grandfathers. I shave with it occasionally. When I was a boy, just beginning to shave, my father was using the more common safety razor. But I bought that straight-edged razor and learned how to use it without wreaking havoc on my face. It takes me three minutes to prepare the razor and my face for two minutes of shaving, but every time I use that straight-edged razor I feel like a master craftsman. It really does not take much more time or effort to shave with that six-inch blade than it does to use one of the newer kinds of razors, but I must be very, very careful. That is the problem of using something sharp. One can cut what was not intended to be cut.
Once a chef told me that you cannot wear out a truly good knife, even if you use it every hour of every day for a lifetime. That is probably an exaggeration, but I do know that the quality of a blade depends upon the quality of the steel, and that good steel requires a careful tempering process. My razor and a couple of my knives have been sharpened hundreds of times. At each sharpening some of the edge was ground away. Yet the amount lost has always been so infinitesimal that they look the same as when I first bought them.
In describing our ministry, one church leader said, “Jews for Jesus is on the cutting edge of evangelism.” That was more of a compliment than he probably realized. The metaphor pleased me greatly because that is just where I would want our ministry to be—on the cutting edge of evangelism, using the sword of the Word to slash the bonds of a world alienated from the One who longs to redeem it. Furthermore, that pastor’s perceptions were good. In order to make a cutting tool sharp, one must keep the edge thin, but also make sure that it is thin at the correct angle. Otherwise, the first time it is used it will lose its edge and become dull again.
I like to think that Jews for Jesus is that right kind of thin. Our ministry began with people who, like good knives, were an alloy of experience. First God’s Word slashed through our preconceived notions, religiosity or philosophies and brought us to the feet of the Savior. Then, as we went out to share the Good News of Messiah with our fellow Jews, we were hard-forged in the fires of opposition. Those who know us well have sometimes observed a gentle abrasiveness in the manner we have with one another. Like steel upon steel, we keep each other sharp. Each of us, like a good knife tempered in the fire, must be sharpened constantly, and that process of sharpening involves abrasion at the correct angle.
Unlike knives, some people resist any kind of abrasion, and they become dull. If Jews for Jesus is on the cutting edge of evangelism, it is because we know that in order to be sharp, we must keep a thin front. That means we maintain a narrow focus. People keep writing to us to say how much they enjoy our television program—except we don’t have a television program. Others tell us how much they enjoy our monthly magazine—except we don’t print one. Obviously they are confusing us with some other ministry. But we don’t have those things for a reason. We do not diversify because we want to keep a narrow focus and a sharp edge.
A few weeks ago while handing out gospel tracts in Washington, D.C., I encountered a fellow Christian. He had a cheery smile and a word of encouragement for me. When he told me that he received our Newsletter and enjoyed reading Moishe Rosen’s articles, that became the occasion for me to introduce myself and accept his compliment. At that he seemed surprised that I would be standing on the street myself handing out tracts. Maybe he thought that Jews for Jesus was much bigger than we are and didn’t need me to do that. Maybe he thought I was “too important” to do that.
At Jews for Jesus we have more than a hundred staff workers, but none of us who have ever been missionary-evangelists will ever get to the point where we are “too good” or “too important” to hand out tracts in public places. I feel that I, in particular, need to hand out tracts on the streets because I write so many of them. I need to see how people interact with the literature we are distributing.
At Jews for Jesus we can be sharp because we are operating on a narrow front. Sure, there are times when I dream about having our own film and video production centers and having our own album production studios. But the biggest dream I can allow myself for the time being is that we might get a four-color press so that we can print better tracts.
The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, and distribution of tracts that proclaim that message is the cutting edge of evangelism. If we allow ourselves as a missionary organization to become too broad—too diversified—we will lose our cutting edge. Likewise, if we should try to avoid the abrasion that sharpens us, we would lose our cutting edge. The abrasion that sharpens a knife does not hurt that inanimate object. The frailty of our human flesh, however, does cause pain as we are subjected to the sharpening process. If we accept the trimming and grinding, we keep sharp; if we seek to avoid it, we grow dull and lose our effectiveness. (Many a good roast has been ruined because of a dull carving knife. The roast was hacked up and served in tasteless, stringy lumps.)
During the month of July Jews for Jesus will be on the extreme cutting edge once again as we proceed with our annual Summer Witnessing Campaign. Depending on the circumstances, we may be able to hand-deliver as many as two million of our gospel broadside tracts. We know that the schedule will be rigorous, and that the opposition can be fiery. Your prayers will serve to strengthen the steel of our resolve to make Christ known.