Prejudice and Personal Evangelistic Dialogue
Prejudice, as defined by Webster, is " any preconceived notion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable." True and effective dialogue between the Christian and Jewish communities has often been thwarted by a kind of prejudice on the part of the Christian − not a conscious kind of prejudice, but an "innocent" kind, based on "harmless" assumptions. So often, as we are on street corners witnessing, Gentile Christians will ask questions like, "You mean to say that Jews really can believe in Jesus?" or, "Aren’t the terms ‘Jew’ and ‘Christian’ opposite?" or, "Isn’t it anti-Semitic to talk to Jews about Jesus?" These people aren’t against evangelistic dialogue between Jews and Christians. They have just assumed that there simply isn’t any such thing! And no matter how innocent, that assumption is a prejudice just as real as any other kind and just as damaging to effective evangelistic dialogue.
In the book of Acts we read of a man who had a problem with just such a prejudice − the Apostle Peter. In Chapter 10, verses 9 to 16, when the Lord called Peter to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, Peter reacted with surprise and shock: "Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean."
Now, Peter knew the Torah (the Law of Moses). He knew of God’s promise to bring salvation to all nations through the seed of Abraham. But Peter’s response to God’s command was not based on knowledge, but on prejudice − not a malicious one, but a prejudice nonetheless. Peter had falsely assumed that God planned to extend His salvation to the Gentiles through the Jewish people only. Whatever the reason for Peter’s prejudice, the Lord was quick to point out the nature of Peter’s problem with His stern reply: "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. " (Acts 10:15 ) Peter repented as he saw that his prejudice must not stand in the way of God’s will.
Because of Peter’s obedience, the Gospel has come to millions of Gentiles since the time of Jesus. But now that the Church is predominantly Gentile, many Gentile Christians are neglecting to bring the Gospel back to the Jewish people! Many Christians object to evangelistic dialogue with the Jewish community on a basis of assumptions that are not scriptural. But just as Peter’s objections could not stand in the light of God’s Word, all objections to bringing the Gospel back to the Jewish people cannot stand in the light of the Great Commission. Instead of letting our innocent prejudices hinder us from fulfilling God’s will, let us all pray and look for opportunities to have evangelistic dialogue with members of the Jewish community.