When I preach in churches, I seldom preach about Jews for Jesus. I’m there to proclaim Christ, even to those who already know Him. It’s a joy to be able to show how wonderful, how adequate, how all together exalted is our Lord. Maybe you can tell, I like preaching at churches. I like people and I think that I have a message that can help others love the Lord more.
Nevertheless, some traditions I find puzzling—even difficult. For example: at some churches the minister and/or guest speaker stands at the door to shake hands with everyone as they exit. I enjoy seeing people’s smiles as they file past but I have problems with my legs, so if it’s a big church it can be painful to stand for a long period of time. Then some people, out of kindness, will press things into my hand on the way out. Often it’s money and this alarms me a little bit. You see, the churches where I speak take an offering for the mission and I don’t accept any personal gifts. Jews for Jesus provides what I need. I tell myself that people probably intend the money to go in the offering, at least I hope so because I think that is the right thing for me to do. Yet I get a little worried because I can’t keep shaking hands with money in my palm, so I have to put whatever they pressed into my hand into my pocket. Then I’ve got to be sure to remember later on that it’s the mission’s money and not mine.
Sometimes people press notes of encouragement into my hand, so that later on I’ll find something that says, Keep up the good work.” I especially like it when a note says, “This sermon ought to be published.” Who wouldn’t like to find such a note in his pocket? Even so, I have a discerning wife who lets me know where my sermons have room for improvement.
Usually, though, people file past rather quickly, because after all, it’s time to go home. Sometimes passing faces become a blur until an occasional halt when someone wants to say more than hello or hear more than “God bless you.” Now and then a line of people will back up behind someone who wants to tell me about their aunt who married a Jewish man in Poughkeepsie, New York. I listen. After all, why shouldn’t I? They’ve just spent half an hour or maybe forty-five minutes listening to me. After hearing the story, I say to the person whose aunt in Poughkeepsie married a Jewish man, “Do you want us to help you witness to him?”
“Oh, no, he’s satisfied just the way he is.” Then on walks the hand shaker leaving me somewhat confused. Why did he tell me about the Jewish man in Poughkeepsie that his aunt married if he didn’t want prayer or didn’t want our help?
I guess that a well meaning hand shaker like the one I mentioned might simply be looking for a point of commonality. He recognized that I am Jewish and wanted me to know that someone in his family is also Jewish. But I really wish that person had cared enough about his aunt’s husband to look for ways to help him know Jesus. That would have turned a social ritual into a meaningful interaction.
When friendly people are looking to show they have something in common with me, I don’t want to hurt their feelings or insult them. The truth is, the points of commonality that I value are the joys of knowing Jesus and the burden I have for others to know Him, too. That’s what I look to share with people when I come to my own church or as a guest to someone else’s. I don’t always do so well at the social rituals (some call them social graces), but I’m always delighted to talk about God’s grace and to look for ways to help others know of that grace.