Because some questions have been raised about evangelical Christians “proselytizing” Jewish people, I thought it wise to reprint an editorial on the subject, which first appeared in the April/May 1990 issue of Israel My Glory.
The Jewess was livid with anger. She had been approached by a man on the street in Jerusalem who had offered her a tract and tried to strike up a conversation about Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. “He didn’t care about me,” she exclaimed. “All he wanted to do was hang another Jew’s scalp on his belt.” A tirade about Christians attempting to proselytize Jews erupted from the experience.
The fear that believers in Jesus are bent on brainwashing Jewish people, stripping away their Jewishness, and turning them into Gentiles who practice another religion is born from memories of dark days of suffering and forced conversions. Consequently, proselytizing—word and concept—has been clothed with such disreputable connotations that for some it is flashed as an instant mind-closer whenever a word is spoken about Jesus.
In actuality, proselytizing (making converts) has been very much a part of the fabric of Judaism. The Midrash refers to the statement about the “souls that they had gotten in Haran” (Gen. 12.5) as converts Abraham had made while in that land. The observation concludes with the comment that every proselyte is to be viewed as if a soul had been created. The Midrash further contends that when Israel is obedient to the will of God, He brings in as converts to Judaism all the just of the nations—Jethro, Rahab, and Ruth are cited as examples. First-century Pharisees were zealous to win converts. “Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte” (Mt. 23:15).
Some modern rabbis promote the concept that Judaism should return to its soul-winning ways. Rabbi Alexander Schindler contends that “Judaism from its birth has been a missionary religion. Abraham was a missionary. We ought to resume our time-honored tradition.”
Evangelical Christians who practice Judaism’s “time-honored tradition” of being “a missionary religion” are not, therefore, perpetrators of a dangerous enterprise that is foreign to the rules of religious fair play. Nor, because they seek to make Christ known to Jews as well as Gentiles, are they avowed enemies of the Jewish people.
Here are the ground rules responsible evangelicals scrupulously observe:
- Our commitment to Jesus Christ compels us to make Him known through the message of the gospel. The Church has been so commissioned.
- Coercion through deception, inducement, or emotional manipulation is abhorrent and contrary to the message and spirit of the gospel.
- People who become believers in Christ must do so of their own free will and with a clear understanding of the implications of their decision.
Propagators of the Christian faith act with a level of integrity consistent with standards acceptable in any arena where the free exchange of ideas is encouraged, not viewed as something to fear.
Thus, true believers are not scalp-hunting marauders or entrenched enemies of the Jewish people. Those who portray them as such are making a very serious error. In fact, Jewry and the State of Israel have no firmer friends or more eager encouragers than are numbered among missionary-minded Christians. Today, when Israel is being increasingly isolated in a world propagandized by anti-Israel antagonists, these people stand firmly committed to Jewish rights and privileges in the Middle East.
And, with the grim realities of the day, there is another dimension to consider. Anti-Semitism, in its ugliest forms, is being resurrected in the Western world. Skinheads, neo-Nazis, Identity Movement “Christians,” and their ominous look-alikes continue to turn up the volume on the manic “a good Jew is a dead Jew” theme. Believers have put themselves on the line with the Jewish people by standing militantly against anti-Semitism in any form declaring it not only irrational but satanic. The Friends of Israel’s message is a defense of Israel and Jews and a denunciation of every vestige of Jew-hating oppression. This commitment, of course, exacts a toll—personal and corporate. But we continue to stand with Jewry because it is right before God to do so, not because we are scalp-hunting exploiters.