Reporters have often asked me: Why do you suppose Jews for Jesus is so controversial?”
I am tempted to grin and say, “Maybe it’s because I am big, fat and ugly!” However, most reporters and writers don’t bring their sense of humor to an interview. Furthermore, I know the controversy is not about me; it’s about our message: Yeshua (Jesus) died for our sins and rose on the third day according to Scripture. When ordinary pastors preach that, no one seems to object—but when Jews come preaching the gospel, lightning crackles and fills the atmosphere. Remember, lightning strikes a lighthouse more often than it strikes a shoreline. We need to be that lighthouse.
Frankly, our controversy problem seems to be a matter of reconciling tact to truth. Some tell us that if we would just be tactful we would not be so threatening. I am in favor of tact if we are talking about common courtesy and respect for others. But too often the idea of tact is interpreted as a smoothness or softness that is designed to help us be accepted. For example, some would have us whisper the Word of God so that only those who want to come very close will hear it. Many choose that kind of tact over speaking the truth for the benefit of all who are in listening distance.
In my usually not-so-humble opinion, too many Christian leaders fail to uphold the authority of Scripture in public interviews, which is when so very many people are in “listening distance.” Have you noticed that the message some proclaim boldly within the sanctuary of the church shrinks down in public interviews to: “Well, in our tradition we say…” or “We have been taught…” They tactfully present truth as their own opinion rather than what God revealed to them. But that is not the way that the prophets, Jesus or the apostles spoke. They framed their language with words like: “Thus saith the Lord…” or, “Moses said…but I say unto you…” and, “The Scripture says…”
To those who don’t know Jesus, the truth of the gospel becomes offensive the moment we suggest that they consider it for themselves. Unfortunately, the “tactful” approach often obscures the challenge for the hearer to weigh the gospel personally. It’s all too easy to make it sound as though this truth is only relevant to those of us who already believe.
Yet those with a secular orientation have no problem proclaiming their opinions and understanding with authority as they tell us, “We know from history…” or, “Science has found…” and, “It is an established fact that…” In other words, if you don’t agree with them, you and your message are ignorant of history, science and established facts.
There are only two choices when it comes to one’s duty as a believer in Jesus—we either confront the world or we conform to the world. If that sounds harsh, maybe it is because we have already conformed too much to the world instead of being conformed to Christ.
Being for Jesus is generally no way to win a popularity contest, particularly in the Jewish community. Many Jews for Jesus have been disowned or renounced by our families for confessing the Messiah openly. When you witness, really witness, you risk rejection. We can face that fact now and deal with it or face it later when it is too late, but the Scriptures tell us assuredly that to make friends with this world (to be shaped and influenced and find one’s primary fellowship in the world) is to be an enemy of God (James 4:4).
Has much changed since Jesus said: “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19)? Or is Jesus’ observation still true today?
Are we arrogant and do we mistake what the Bible says when we are told there is no other name in heaven or earth by which men might be saved (Acts 4:12)? I suppose that if there really is only one way to be saved, and we keep pointing that out, we are just going to have to be controversial.