I Hear the Opposition… But Do They Hear Me?
"For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." Romans 10:2
I’d heard it all before, and I suppose that as long as I’m in the ministry, I’ll hear it all again, “Jews Can’t Believe in Jesus!"
So, when I was assigned to go hear Dr. Emmanuel Schochet speak on that topic, I wasn’t too enthusiastic. But, as always, if you look for opportunities in everything you do, they seem to be there. The opportunity was not (as I might have hoped) a contact with some interested Jewish person. Rather, the opportunity is this article. Since this newsletter usually explains how Jewish people are told about accepting Jesus, I thought you might be interested in hearing how they are told not to believe in Him .
The meeting was unique in that it was jointly sponsored by Chabad and Hillel. Chabad is the campus arm of an ultra orthodox sect of Judaism; a sect so fervent you usually see them with their black coats, bobbing earlocks, and fringes hanging from their garments as they urge Jewish students to become observers of the Jewish Law. The Hillel Foundation, on the other hand, is the campus group representing a more moderate Jewish view. Some of the Hillel rabbis don’t even bother to keep kosher. To quote my friend Steffi Rubin,
"Chabad and Hillel seldom agree on anything except that they don’t believe in Jesus … and neither should any Jew."
Dr. Schochet is a representative of Chabad. He was billed as a distinguished scholar and authority on Jewish mysticism and Jewish-Christian relations. I have no doubt that he is both. He’s astute, alert, and well-versed. He’s also a good speaker, who related quite well to the Jewish audience. He used a number of parables and stories, and he reminded me of my grandfather or the uncle of a good friend. I was drawn by his eagerness and his enthusiasm, and I related well to his zealous concern for his beliefs. He was neither formidable in appearance nor apparently unkind. This explanation is so that you will realize that he’s an intelligent, likeable person. Intelligent, that is, about everything except Jesus. On that subject, emotional prejudice covered his mind. I know he would probably like me as a person, IF … only I did not believe in Jesus.
Dr. Schochet began by discussing Jews within the church. According to him, the church has a "need" to prove itself by having Jewish members. Without Jews in the church, the Christian faith has no credibility, since the whole concept of a Messiah is Jewish. In order to buoy up its inferiority complex, the church is especially interested in winning Jews to the faith. Yet, he went on, "there is a spark within each Jew that innately warns him that accepting Jesus as Messiah is treacherous." In order to overcome these inner feelings of treachery, Christians now call themselves "Jews for Jesus" in an attempt to make the belief more palatable. However, he warned, these are all Christians in disguise. To prove his point, he read from the Jews for Jesus statement that:
"We define ourselves as evangelical fundamentalists and we seek the cooperation of individuals and Christian bodies meeting this description . . . we believe in affiliation with a local church and being accountable to the church for service and discipline … As we win and disciple Jewish people we urge them either to take their place in a local evangelical church or establish a congregation … our duty is to aid the church at large ….”
I’ve not quoted the entire passage he read, but his point was clear: behind every Jew for Jesus lurks a Christian. (Noteworthy in this is that within the movement of Jews coming to the Lord, much talk centers on terminology. Would Dr. Schochet, I wondered to myself, have less reason to object to us if our terminology had been more "Jewish?") Soon came my answer: terms, culture, or place of worship had nothing to do with his objections. To him, anyone who accepted Jesus as the Messiah (or Yeshua, if you choose to use His Hebrew name) was no longer a Jew. The more Jewish your style of worship, the more affirmative of Jewish sensitivities you are in your witness, the more treacherous you are.
It was kind of strange, actually. In witnessing to Jewish people, we always refer to the Jewish people in "we" terms. Ever since I was a small girl, like most Jews, I was indoctrinated to think in "we they" terms with regard to non-Jews. The plural pronouns "we" and "us" didn’t need to be explained. Most of the time they referred to Jews. On the other hand, "they" "them" and "theirs" needed no explanation either. They were the non-Jews, as in "They are also persecuting …" During his talk I realized that no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, no matter what my birthright, to him I had become a "them" … a meshumad (apostate), the term of contempt lower than any other.
In effect, what he did was set up a situation whereby, if our witness is not considerate of Jewish sensitivities, we become a persecutor and reviler of the Jewish people. If we try to maintain our Jewishness, then we are more sneaky and low-down that those who are merely insensitive.
Space will not permit a discussion of his entire 21/2-hour talk. He spoke of the atrocities of Christianity and the inconsistency of the New Testament. He quoted Messianic prophecies to show that Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah. He said even if some Christians could answer these objections, the answers should be disregarded because, after all, it was the Jews who brought the Scriptures to the world in the first place and non-Jews simply weren’t able to understand or interpret the Bible properly.
I was aghast when he told us that in the early 1960’s, it cost the church six to eight million dollars to convert one Jew (surely higher now, he pointed out, with inflation). While the audience was digesting that piece of information, he made a poignant point: to him, $6 million is not a lot of money … rather, it was a cheap price to pay for a Jewish soul. (Of course I was tempted to tell him that it cost God more than money.)
He quoted testimonies of people who had been on dope and had lives so wretched that only Jesus could straighten them out. His response? "Better they should have stayed in the gutter and on dope than to believe in Jesus Christ. That way, only the body is ruined, not the soul."
Still reeling from this, I was almost devastated by his comment on the Jewish soul. "I would rather that Hitler had succeeded in killing all the Jews, than to lose one precious soul to the missionaries."
Quoting passages on the Messiah, he proudly exclaimed that in any court of law his case for Jesus not being the Messiah would indisputably win over the Christians’ defense that He is.
Any court? Any judge? I couldn’t help but hurt for my people who will someday plead their case before the great Judge, in a court where such a defense is inadmissible.
What then should be our Christian response to such monolithic unbelief? Should we be appalled by such arrogance? Distressed? Discouraged? No!! Rather we should be as Paul in Romans 10:1, where he says, "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." What did Paul face? The same zeal, but not according to knowledge.
After all, what brought these people out to hear the lecture? Why are there lectures on every campus these days? What brings people inside a building on a pleasant California summer evening? Some were old. Maybe they had children who had become believers. Some were obviously religious Jews. Maybe they wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Some, in fact many, were young. I looked at their faces, making guesses about who they were. One young girl asked a number of questions. Astute questions like, "How can it be right for Gentiles and not for Jews? Truth must be absolute." If I had been witnessing to her on a street corner, I would have described her as sincerely interested in honest answers. I wondered if she, or someone else, was there to give the "opposition" one last chance as she considers the claims of Christ.
If indeed this young girl, or another there, had serious questions of the heart, then I knew that the talk would show itself of men and not of God . If anything, it would point her toward discovering the truth for herself. I know that before I came to Christ, one of my arguments was, "Maybe it makes sense to me, but I haven’t studied for years like the rabbis. I’m sure the rabbis have good reasons that I just never bothered to learn." But when I searched for these good reasons I realized that the basis for unbelief was prejudicial tradition, culture and history.
So, this young woman heard the case for unbelief. Just like I heard the case for unbelief. At one time in my life I listened, hoping to find support for my own rebellion against God. But now I went because I was sent. I’ve heard the knowledge of men, and I’ve decided to follow God.