A notice published in the Jerusalem Post read:
“The citizens of Israel warmly welcome tourists who have come to get to know our country and its residents. But those who come to convince Jews to abandon their religion are most definitely not welcome… Missionaries: You are not welcome in this land and will not be permitted to act freely in your attempts to snatch souls!”
It continues: “This holy land has gathered in the remnants of the Jewish people who survived the Holocaust, pogroms and persecution in Europe and around the world. Missionaries take advantage of Israel’s hospitality to spiritually destroy what is left of the Jewish people. They come under false pretenses, claiming to be lovers of Israel. BUT THEY ARE NOT! They seek to lure Jews away from their religion.”
How should we as believers feel about this and respond?
This huge advert was placed in the newspaper by an anti-missionary organisation called Yad L’Achim, but the sentiments are very common among Jewish people in Israel and abroad. Christianity, they believe, is dangerous. Especially to Jews.
How in the world did it come to this?
It can be very hard for Christians who love Israel, love the Jewish people and who also love Jesus to understand the ambivalence with which they are sometimes received. Sometimes it’s a warm welcome, an enthusiastic embrace, and the great hospitality mentioned by Yad L’Achim. At other times the idea of Christians who love Israel can be met with wariness, icy responses and sometimes flat-out hostility.
When I first came to Israel and began sharing how many of us who belive in Yeshua also have come to share his love for Israel, I was staggered to see that this was a surprise to many. “So you don’t hate us? I thought Christians hated Jews?” One girl asked, wide-eyed. Other friends wanted to spend time with me, but yet treated me with uneasy caution, knowing the “dangerous” faith that my life is based upon… enjoying me at arm’s length, as one might with a pet tarantula.
There are several things going on to contribute to this situation.
The first and obvious element is the horrendous history of the church, and how many Jewish people have been persecuted, tortured and murdered by Christians. The Holocaust is understood to be a “Christian” persecution of Jewish people, because Germany was a “Christian” country. As hard as that may be to stomach, there are many more examples of how people who genuinely saw themselves as true Christians slaughtered entire Jewish communities, or forced them to convert to Christianity. That’s going to leave anti-Christian alarm bells ringing for a few centuries to come.
The second element is the spiritual battle. As much as God loves the people of Israel and calls them the ‘apple of his eye’, Satan hates them. He has sought their annihilation from the moment that God placed his special affection on them, and is determined that they will not know him. God longs for an intimate and loving relationship with his chosen people, and Satan is hell-bent on making sure that does not happen. He has build barricade after barricade to keep people as far away from the truth about Yeshua the Messiah as possible. He has contrived and manipulated the situation that the name of Jesus has become a curseword in Hebrew, and the concept of following him as fundamentally opposed to Jewish identity. It is tragic to see the twisted and mulitple ways this has come to pass throughout history, and how the church has sometimes collaborated with him.
The third element is that God himself, has deliberately hardened the hearts and minds of the people of Israel, so that they cannot know or understand the truth of the gospel for a season of time, as described in Romans 11:25-32:
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
This passage is key in understanding our responsibility as gentile believers – it says that Jewish people “May too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you”. That means they may now experience God’s mercy (forgiveness, love and right relationship with him) as a result of God’s mercy to us, the gentiles. That is to say, we have understood the gospel, we have received Jesus and his forgiveness, and we stand in his love, in right relationship with him. Now, as a result of our salvation, we can also share this mercy with the people of Israel.
So God has clearly told us to share this good news with all the world, and here in Romans it is clear that gentiles are to share it with Jewish non-believers too. When it comes to obeying that anti-missionary advert, or obeying God, I know who I will go with.
Would you be willing to share the mercy that God has given to you with the People of Israel?
- Please pray for Israel as a people, and for God to overcome every barrier between them and draw them to himself.
- Please pray for those who are sharing the good news of Yeshua, even though this is a very unpopular thing to do in Israel
- Please pray for love, wisdom and fruitfulness for all those involved in evangelism among the Jewish people
- And please pray for all those involved with Yad L’Achim – that they too, would come to know their saviour and the Messiah of Israel,
- and would not succeed in stopping the message of the gospel going forth.