Jewish Evangelism: Defusing IEDs

Improvised explosive devices and evangelism? What’s the connection? Did you know certain words when used to evangelize a Jewish person can cause an IED reaction?

We cannot ignore the hundreds of years of anti-Semitism sadly done by those who claimed to be Christians. Therefore, there are words or phrases that to a Jewish person are charged with emotion, causing an angry explosion. Instead of opening a door to share the love of Messiah, it is slammed in your face.

At the heart

“You’re trying to convert me,” may be the quick response, which translated means “trying to take my Jewish heart out and put a Gentile one in.” Many well-meaning Christians introduce us to their unbelieving Jewish friends saying, “They used to be Jewish,” or, “He’s a converted Jew.” Jewish people know their history — times when they were given an ultimatum to either convert or die. As believers, we know our Lord converted our heart; He took our heart of stone and gave us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). But please understand this is not the way an unbelieving Jewish person perceives the word “convert.”

Messiah Christ

As Christians we know Christ comes from the Greek and expresses the title Messiah. Yet many Jewish people do not know this. Mimi accepted Y’shua (Jesus) through emotional circumstances and immediately afterward a woman told her, “Oh, honey, you’ve found your Messiah.”

Mimi’s response was, “You’re kidding? Is that who Jesus is?”

To most Jewish people the concept that Jesus is the Messiah is as foreign as having a cross in their synagogue. Yet the name Messiah resonates in their heart in a most unique way. We believe this is God-ordained, since they have been waiting for him to come and set up his millennial kingdom where there will be peace and freedom from the fear of persecution for 1,000 years.

Tree or cross

To those who worship Y’shua, the cross is a beloved reminder of how deep and how wide is our Savior’s love. Yet the word “cross” and its visual depiction unfortunately reminds a Jew of something entirely different. To them, it represents anti-Semitism. A number of years ago, Michael’s son was graduating from a Christian school and the ceremony was held in a church. Michael’s parents attended with us, and when his mother saw the large cross front and center, she cringed.

Michael told her, “Mom, this is here because it was done to our Lord, not because it was done to us.”

It was a wonderful opportunity to clarify a dreadful misconception, and today this woman is in heaven with the Messiah she later accepted. Please join us in one loud hallelujah. However, do not forget her initial reaction was cringing. And two years ago, when we took an 80-year-old Jewish woman to a service with us, Michael attempted to prepare her heart for the cross she would soon see. Despite this, when Shirley walked into church she immediately upon seeing the cross in front of her cringed as well.

Don’t be discouraged

Oy vey, hope we haven’t discouraged anyone. Seriously, we hope not. A number of Christians have told us they hesitate to share with their Jewish friends because it does seem too daunting a task. Either they will be met with disbelief or hostility. They fear losing their friend.

We understand, but we are encouraged. Since 1967, when Israel reclaimed Jerusalem, more and more Jewish people are discovering the truth about their Messiah and embracing Him. Every other Friday evening we have what we call a “Discussion Group” in our home. The average mix is five or six Jewish unbelievers and about the same number of Jewish believers, and once in a while we are blessed with a few Gentile believers.

Michael realized those Jewish people who come and tell us that they are afraid their dead grandparents will turn over in their graves or they will be shunned by their friends are really saying they are afraid of knowing who “this Jesus” is. Since we have been reading and discussing the Gospels together, they have experienced His love, grace, mercy and power.

Isaiah 55:11 tells us, “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (NLT).

Michael and Mimi Finesilver are missionaries with Everlasting Life Outreach, a mission to the Jewish people. To learn more visit their website at everlastinglifeoutreach.com, or email them at [email protected]

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