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The Jesus Brothers

Judentum / Israel / Messianische Juden

Should Christians Try to Convert Jews?

This subject is heavily discussed on both sides. First and upfront: Not all followers of Jesus are “Christians”. You also have Jewish believers in Christ – looked down upon by some traditional Jews as they did something that cannot be forgiven: Throughout the centuries, throughout the persecution Jews have hold on to their covenant with God and to the tradition. So in the eyes of some traditional Jews becoming a follower of Christ would break both and be worse than death.
Also you have a huge spectrum on both sides. There is no common agreement anymore on what “Judaism” or “following Jesus” is all about. So answering this question gets close to being impossible.
And yet – I will try.

There are not many things that Jesus told us to do. He never told us to write a book (as useful and necessary the inspired written Word of God is!), but to love one another. This love and the power and force that flows out of it is concentrated in the two rules every follower of Jesus had to fulfill (as much as some deny that today!):

Matthew 28:16-20
The Great Commission
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 22:36-40
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
(Both: THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.)

So in short: Yes, followers of Jesus are commanded to make disciples of all nations – including Jews (as much as they are commanded to love Israel and reject replacement theology and anti-Semitism by the way!). I already hear and outcry now of some Jews: here you go – they are trying to lure us into other faiths! There is no doubt that the Great Commission has been depraved of its true meaning and abused to justify evil deeds – like pogroms against Jews. However, this does not take away from its original purpose – making disciples. This purpose, however, does in no way mean we “lure people into our faith”. The best way a follower of Jesus can make disciples is through his or her own witness – through the way he or she acts or talks, through his or her own life testimony. People should be able to see Jesus through us – without having to read a single word of the Bible.

In my home Bible study group there is also an Israeli Jew. He is well aware of the fact that we are followers of Jesus – and yes, there is nothing I would want more than to see him do likewise. And yet we do not chase him with Bible verses or with ongoing attempts to “drag him over”. This is what people have to understand: Faith is a free gift of God. We can accept or reject it. Followers of Jesus are called to accept that free decision. Yes, the Bible tells us that there is only one way to God – through His son. Does that mean all non-followers of Jesus go to hell? That would be complete nonsense. Even more so: Whoever says that puts himself or herself in God’s position. It is not up to us to judge nor to say who will go to hell. We rather focus on how loving people like Jesus did.

Some of us believe that trying to bring Jews to Jesus is something unthinkable. Something none of us should ever try to do. This is clearly wrong as it goes against the basic commandments Jesus gave us.

Followers of Christ believe that the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament – and the New Testament hidden in the Old Testament. The two of them form one unbreakable alliance and we certainly hope our Jewish brothers and sisters will see that too someday.

To cut a long story short: No Jewish believer – traditional or liberal – has to be afraid that he or his children will be “lured” into some sectarian belief against their will. We can – and should! - take no as an answer.

However, “tolerance” does not mean you believe what you believe and I believe what I believe – and we all lived happily ever after. It means – and has to mean! – that we bring our differences on the table and talk things out. Even more so it means that we need to respect that others live their faith as they are called to –and that followers of Jesus certainly will (as much as traditional Jews do). We cannot and must not renounce on a basic commandment of the Messiah for the sake of a fake “peace” of different faiths. That would annihilate our faith and make it worthless.
I call on both sides to accept and respect one another. Jews have suffered more than enough in history and presence – and it is high time followers of Jesus take a clear stand for Israel. Both sides need to understand that we live in times where we need friends and allies. Jews and followers of Jesus should be brothers and sisters. Christianity is the most persecuted religion on earth at the moment. We need friends too. And what better friends could we find than our elder brothers and sisters?

Robert

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