How We Learn to Walk
A few months ago I saw a 2 year old on YouTube. He was reported to be a preacher’s son. They gave him the mic up on the stage behind the pulpit and he paced back and forth across the stage yelling like a Pentecostal preacher. It was cute. He couldn’t really talk yet, but he had the sounds and inflections down. He sounded just like many Pentecostal ministers except without comprehensible words. After watching it I read some of the comments. One lady said, “Doesn’t he have the Spirit of God upon him? God has big plans for this boy.” I knew he was just imitating his father. This is not credentials for the indwelling of the Spirit of God. I was somewhat surprised that this adult seemed to judge the Spirit of God by the fact that he could scream at the age of two. It was the manner in which he screamed that seemed to indicate the Spirit to her. He did so in the manner of her preacher.
The facts are that the first way we gain information is through subconscious learning. This is where we imitate those to whom we are closely connected. No child is truly taught to walk, they merely observe and imitate. All language is learned this way too. Children don’t open up a dictionary to discover the meaning of a word. When we were children our parents used the word in our presence and we learned how to apply its meaning in sentences. Children only use words the way their parents have used them, they learn to talk, subconsciously. All native language is learned this way. Babies and toddlers hear and imitate. This means that one may be able to use a word properly and get the results he desires, but may not be capable of defining the word to another person. This is due to his level of thinking on language. A toddler will not have discovered there are multiple languages and that there may or may not be relationships between them. He certainly does not know grammar or have any understanding of etymology.
As we grow, we slowly and systematically add additional procedure and skills which enable us to take in more abstract concepts like grammar and linguistics. A dictionary isn’t even necessary until some formal learning is introduced and a person comes to the understanding that there may be a right or a wrong answer. A dictionary is of no value to someone who does not read, cannot say the alphabet in order or comprehend that there may be several meanings to a word. To understand that there is a right and wrong answer is actually first grade level. It isn’t until several grades later that we discover that there can be multiple answers to some questions and all of them be right. Algebra is a math that teaches a person how to answer more than one question in a problem. It is decidedly more complex than addition and subtraction, but it uses those disciplines as a base. So Language, Math, Science and all subjects, including Biblical Study, progress along similar paths as one’s skills develop into a more and more complex analysis.
Returning to the use of words, it is evident that most people don’t get far beyond the subconscious learning in language. Most have no knowledge of the grammar in their native language. They speak it fluently, but grammar is not necessary to conduct day to day communication. We use proper grammar because we have heard it said properly and imitate what we have heard. We also break grammatical rules because we have heard it wrong. I probably could not interest most of you in an English grammar class. Have you ever been asked to define a word and found it difficult to get the right definition even though you have used the word correctly for years? I’m sure many of you have. Once we learn to use a word and get the results we want by using it, there is little incentive to dig further and gain skills that seem to us to be useless. This is where we have problems today with our discussion of biblical topics. Our definitions may vary, but we are all using the same words.
Paul is a good Baptist boy of about 6 years of age. His mother talks to him about something that is going to happen at church this Sunday, “There is going to be a baptism Paul and you will get to watch.” Paul has no clue what his mother is talking about. Paul is used to not knowing words his mother uses and he never asks for her to define the words. A good portion of every sentence his mother has said since he was a baby, he has not understood. I suspect that “define” is not yet in his vocabulary. Paul just says yes to mom and goes on playing with his toy car. When Sunday rolls around, he goes to his church and witnesses a baptism. The preacher calls forward a family and tells the church that the Barber family want to join South Hill Baptist Church. “They come with a letter of good standing from Oak Grove Baptist Church,” he says. “They have moved to Russellville because of a job opportunity.” The congregation takes a vote on allowing them to join. Upon being accepted, the family is immersed in water in a baptistry behind a curtain on the stage and accepted as a member of South Hill. Now Paul has a definition that he can depend upon. Paul knows what is meant by the term “baptism” and is ready to use it in a sentence on his own.
Mary is a little girl about 6 years of age and her mother is talking to her about something that is going to happen at Mass this week. She exclaims, “Mary, you are going to witness a baptism. Its only the third one since you were baptized.” Mary could care less even though her mother seems to be excited. Mary does not know what a baptism is and really her dolls are much more interesting at the moment. When Sunday comes around her priest takes a baby from the arms of his parents and holds him over what appears to be a birdbath. The priest then sprinkles water on the baby and gives it a Christian name. Mary now has a visual for the meaning of Baptism.
Mary and Paul attend 1st grade together at Belmont Elementary. They both come to school on Monday with a story for show and tell about baptism. Paul starts sharing his story and quickly Mary finds he is taking her story. When Paul describes the baptism, Mary quickly knows that Paul didn’t see a real baptism. When she gets up to tell her story she begins to correct Paul on all he said. Paul takes offense and says she doesn’t know what she is talking about. The teacher intervenes, but both go home knowing they are right and the other is wrong.
We understand that both attended something that each called a baptism, but we also know that different churches do baptisms differently. We each have a personal preference and know the other is really wrong, but we have at least become aware that there may be more than one way a church practices this rite. The problem is, after we have this subconsciously defined in our mind, when we read the Bible, the term baptism in the Bible is defined by what we saw. Scripture is defined by our experience. We are told, this passage is why we do what we do. So our practice defines Scripture rather than Scripture defining our practice.
Most of the specialty terms in the Bible are defined by what we observed early in our religious training. We all have a degree of the Christianese language in our life. We say things that have meaning to us because our congregation uses them in a certain way. “Praise the Lord” is often understood as an act of praise rather than a command to praise. “I’m saved” means that you believe you have the gift of eternal life and not that your life was spared from peril. There is quite a vocabulary of Christianese and few even know they possess it. They don’t realize these specifically religious terms have meaning in the real world and may mean something else to those who are not a part of their spiritual society. Consider the question, “Are you saved?” In English this is probably an incoherent sentence. You have to be saved from something. In Christianese it has important meaning.
Just putting any verb and noun together does not necessarily make a sentence. Ran is a verb in a past tense form like “saved” is also a past tense verb. Asking, “Are you ran?” makes no sense. I realize that we are using “saved” as a participle, making it a description of a state of being for the individual, but in Scripture, the term isn’t used in this fashion. It is a verb. So we have forced a verb into an adjective to communicate a category of people. We unfortunately eisegete this understanding back into the Scripture making it difficult to understand. Added to the difficulties of us not knowing grammar or how to use it to analyze a sentence, language changes over time and meanings of words change too.
Definitions Do Change Over Time
Clear definitions to words are crucial in order to have an open dialogue on any topic. If our society uses a word in a particular fashion, it will give meaning to that word in our minds by the way it is used. Often the usage in a culture is somewhat different from the dictionary definition. The ambient usage allows us to impose a new definition on the dictionary meaning. If our actions indicate that it means something other than what it does by written definition, the actions usually prevail in the way society understands the meaning. Hence, terms tend to migrate in meaning taking on new subtleties as they are used over time. Dictionary definitions change in the process.
Modern technology that enables communication over long distances instantly has quickened the rate by which words change. One hundred years ago, it would have been unusual for a definition to completely change in a person’s lifetime, but today we have seen several words take on new meanings, making the older definition completely disappear. The word ‘gay’ is a classic example of change, going from a meaning of happy and cheerful, to a discussion of sexual preference. The sexual terminology and social taboo quickly made the joyous connotation fall into disuse. More recently the sexual connotation has begun to take a second place to the idea of a misfit. In the approximately 60 years of my life, I have known 3 different definitions to the same word. That is rapid change.
Stephen Foster, a mid-19th century folk songwriter, has already begun to receive the brunt of the change in meaning. He was the author of “My Old Kentucky Home,” the state song of my home state, Kentucky. This ballad was written as an anti-slavery song, yet in today’s politically correct environment, it is thought to have racist terminology. The second line of the song is sometimes changed today because the meanings of the words have changed. The line states, “And the darkies are gay.” 1 Some now associate the term darkie as being a racial slur, but when Foster penned these words, it had no negative connotation whatsoever. It merely was distinguishing a group of people. Frederick Douglass, the famed Afro-American abolitionist promoted the song because it portrayed the plight of a slave who could be sold to another owner further south and loose his comfortable life in Kentucky. Frederick Douglas did not consider the song to be demeaning in any way. Secondly, the word gay meant joyous or happy. So Foster’s intent may be clarified in modern English to read, “and the Afro-Americans were satisfied and happy.” As soon as my generation dies out, the old connotations will be forgotten. Then, it may be taken to mean that all-dark skinned people are homosexuals, or maybe all dark-skinned people are misfits.This shows when we look at that line from a later time period with new connotations added to the words, it becomes offensive. I doubt one person in Stephen Foster’s time would have considered the line to be offensive. Afro-Americans of that day appreciated the statement against slavery. Today when the song is sung, the word “darkies” is sometimes being replaced with “people.” This obscures the intent of the song as an anti-slavery ballad. Time and context make a difference.
Another word that has changed in our present day language is the word “evangelize.” In our recent history it had two distinct meanings, but in this day, one has begun to disappear. Dewitt and Dolly Garrett, my wife’s grandparents, were missionaries to Rhodesia. When they went to Rhodesia, an automobile was a rare machine. Roads had been designed for pushcarts and animal drawn transportation, not a motorized anything. They went to Africa to start a new life with a completely different culture among a completely different people. They went to be servants to these people as well as teach them about their relationship with God. Dolly Garrett, after raising six children of her own in Africa, started an orphanage to take care of orphaned African children. There was a tragic cultural situation in Africa that even further clarifies the differences of language in diverse parts of the world.
Rhodesia at this time had English as their national language, but the words may not have been used in a similar manner as we used them in the United States. In Africa there were the native Africans that were usually called “black people” or “Negros.” Then there were the British colonists who were called “white people” or “Europeans.” A third group arose from these two who were a mixture of the black and the white residents. These people in Africa were called “colored.” The same term was used in America, but it had a completely different connotation. Colored in America meant anyone of African descent and often included Jews, Native Americans, Orientals and other darker skinned groups. In Africa it meant only those who were a mixture of the two colors. These “colored” Africans were hated in their culture. Colored children were often abandoned by their parents and it was rare for anyone to even give them the basic necessities of life. The coloreds were treated horribly. Dolly, seeing this tragic treatment of God’s precious people, decided to do something about it. She started an orphanage opened only to abandoned “colored” children. This was a part of their work in Africa and a part of their presentation of who they were and the character of the God they served. In that day, it would have been called evangelism. As a result, I think all of those children believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob because they knew they were valued by those people who followed Him. Dolly lived to be 100 years old. Prior to her 100th birthday we had to request that her adopted children not fly in from all over the world to celebrate her birthday. She just could not have handled all the attention at that time.
Today, the terms have changed. Dolly Garrett’s work might be seen as evangelism, but a person without religious beliefs may also do the same thing. So the idea of living the life may have given way to a secular practice and only the work Dewitt did in the planting of churches would now be considered evangelistic. I have often heard Christian people criticize Christians who go to a people in need with the plan of only offering aid and not preaching a sermon. Doctors volunteer to offer medical services to seriously devastated societies, while facing criticism from evangelicals because they do not give daily sermons. Some of these doctors share when they are asked why they give of their time, but they recognize their profession of Medical Arts takes precedence at that specific time. They served the people and periodically got opportunity to share their faith to curious beneficiaries of their work. Their service speaks volumes of their life and will influence more people than constant preaching.
My brother-in-Law’s wife, Candy Garrett, grew up in the jungles of Brazil. Her parents Dawn and Steve worked with the natives of Brazil. Dawn was a nurse, so she set up a medical clinic in the jungle. She helped with their physical needs and her husband learned the language and translated the Bible into their language. In their missionary organization, the teaching about God always was a part of the life of the people who came to minister to the native’s physical needs. They lived with the people, incorporated into their society and met the needs of those people while they shared their understanding of God. They worked with these people for over 30 years. That is integrating into the society to share one’s life.
Print media, television, and the Internet have caused dramatic changes in human society and how we view evangelism. In particular, for example, ‘television’ has been combined with the term “evangelist” and we have the “television evangelist” or even “televangelist.” A television evangelist cannot share his life with his audience. He cannot serve any of their material needs. He is only an image on a screen. He can only deliver a message. This reality has divorced all concept of action from the message. The audience does not know the evangelist’s life. They only see him on television. The message may be condemning or it may be uplifting, but a general tendency to bring a mostly lifeless message has often resulted in a presentation of a basic message of salvation from hell and a list of rules that supposedly define a Christian walk. The more we dwell on what we think should be required of others, the more we demand that they be just like us. So, the mere invention and marketing of television has shifted the meaning of evangelism from a message of God’s love and righteousness mixed with respect for all people, to a message of edicts determining who is saved and who is damned. The concept of living with and among a group of people to convey the message has largely disappeared.
Another way to distribute your message without having to share your life is to distribute tracts. The ease of passing out, to total strangers, a message that you agree with, but do not live in their presence allows us to remove the personal aspect of living a life in the presence of another and that life being a testimony for God’s work. Evangelism has divorced itself from being a daily life of walking with God, and has become simply a desire to change other’s beliefs to mimic one’s own.
History has been too full of people who wished to make the world exactly like them rather than to serve those people and tell of their reason for their love. History is full of manipulation and force done in the name of God. Television evangelists tend to pull the hell card out to scare you into obedience, or the feel good card to let you know anything is alright. Many churches in our area do nothing but talk about how everyone is going to hell if they do not conform to the supposed life presented by their narrow interpretation of the Scriptures. Hell has become no more than a manipulative term to bring about the desired conformity to their interpretation of Scripture. This is bigoted, narrow-mindedness and requires people to conform to a culture, rather than to live a life of guidance from an omnipotent God. We have changed from bringing people to the one true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to bringing them to our American life in an American culture following our specifically chosen rules. To the present day non-Christian, evangelism has become the spreading of a culture and a message of imposing one’s religious beliefs on others. To the present day Christian, evangelism has become spreading the news that if you believe in Jesus you will get to play in our eternal club house, but only if you conform to our set of rules.
The propensity to demand obedience from those outside your belief system is not new. In medieval Europe, evangelism took on the connotation of conquering the pagan by sword and imposing your rule over him to facilitate the rule of Christ. Augustine had laid down a few qualifications for a just war. Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont made way for the first crusade in 1095. In order to justify such actions, he added a couple more statements. 1) Violence and its consequences-death and injury-are morally neutral rather than intrinsically evil, and whether violence is good or bad is a matter of intention. 2) Christ is concerned with the political order of man, and intends for his agents on earth, kings, popes, bishops, to establish on earth a Christian Republic that was a single, universal, transcendental state’ ruled by Christ through the lay and clerical magistrates he endowed with authority. 2 Pagan began to mean, anyone who did not follow orthodox Christian beliefs including Muslim, Jew and even sometimes Eastern Orthodox Christians. This new understanding coupled with an Amillennial view of eschatology that the kingdom is in our hearts and will only manifest as a dominion when it is set up by Christ’s followers, 3 caused medieval Europe to participate in forced conversion. It was thought reasonable for people who believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to impose their particular practice over other people who believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So the term “evangelism” took on new connotation in that time. A connotation which was never intended in the biblical narrative. Since our terminology has changed throughout the years, it becomes necessary for us to reconsider the directions given in Scripture to see if we are following the Bible or some imposed interpretation of it based on new definitions from our modern era and eschatological paradigm.
In the late 20th century a teaching emerged called “Evangelism Explosion.” In it many of the conservative Christian denominations were taught to stop people on the street and share with them a certain plan of salvation. People were encouraged to walk up to cars at stop lights and give them a short explanation, asking predetermined questions to lead a person to say the sinners prayer and ask Yeshua/Jesus into their lives. They handed out tracts which said nicely what their denomination wanted to share. The evangelist could walk away from a car with another notch in his belt for saving another soul. I have actually heard people state, “I saved 14 souls tonight.” There was less than two minutes spent with this individual. The spiel ended by giving them a card telling them where their church was located or a tract trying to scare them into the church. Maybe this technique had some success, but I doubt it really did much good. Few people who mouthed the sinners prayer ever showed up at the church. Without dramatic discipling, this process would have no effect whatsoever on an individual, except give that person the false notion that he had done what was necessary. He is told that God accepts him as he is, that salvation is a free gift, and all they have to do is believe in Jesus. Keep in mind there are no definitions to these terms while the person is being led through this memorized sales pitch. This type of thinking now permeates our society and evangelism has become totally removed from a life. No living the life in front of your audience and no requirement for change in the life of the convert is required.
In a much earlier time of Christianity, tradition tells us that Constantine embraced the faith and forced his army to convert to Christianity. Mass baptism doesn’t produce sincere believers. Constantine then got involved in Church disputes and it depends on your theological paradigm as to whether he was benevolent to Christianity or was the worse thing that could have happened. This began a long time of the Church being bed partners with the state. The church began to enforce Christian doctrine by legal edict from Rome. Ultimately the Holy Roman Empire was formed and civil law became a mandate of the church. Here the idea of forcing doctrine upon society at large through legal edict became another tool of evangelism. The definition of evangelism takes on a new connotation of civil legal edict. Such notions developed like a marriage was illegitimate unless conducted by a priest in a Roman Catholic Church. Jewish marriages were considered to produce bastard children according to Roman law. This legal mandate ruled until the Puritans sought freedom in America. This continued up into the 20th century. Germany did not recognize Jewish marriages in the 1940s. A Jewish friend of mine, who with his parents fled Nazi Germany when he was five, enjoys telling that he was the best man in his parents wedding. One of the first things they did when arriving to England was to get a legal marriage. England recognized Jewish weddings. Force, through legal edict was not much better than force by the sword or force by manipulation. Force on the will of man is evil whether it is perpetuated by a loving Christian denomination or a radical Muslim terrorist. I certainly prefer former over the latter, but we need to recognize the principle that should not be broken. God gave man free will and He intends for him to exercise it. He did not give man dominion over the consciences of other men.
The following is a list of connotations associated with Evangelism over the millennium that have nothing to do with the job of a first century evangelists.
- Legal edicts promoting Christian doctrines
- Forced conversion by Sword or any threat of harm
- Bill boards that claim to speak God’s message
- Handing out of tracts.
- Attempts to conform others to our own walk or religious belief.
- Television messages totally separated by a life off screen.
Article Eight’s Non-evangelize Clause
Now let’s discuss evangelism and article 8 in the Articles of Declaration in the Bney Yosef North America document. A few people are concerned that we are contradicting the commands of the New Testament by including this article. We have been sent numerous quotes from Scripture that they believe support their claims that we are headed in a wrong direction. I want to thank each one of these individuals for their concern. I appreciate your heart in not wanting to offend the Lord and being willing to share your concerns with you. Please know that your concerns, even those that may indicate we are doing something wrong will be welcomed.
We have been assured by most people bringing their concerns that they have heard this from the Holy Spirit. This presupposes that the Elders have not heard from the Holy Spirit. Each person believes he is hearing from the Holy Spirit when he forms his beliefs. To not understand this indicates we have not matured in our understanding of our brothers and will constantly seek to elevate our opinion above theirs. This is not conducive to the mission of Bney Yosef. Respect includes an understanding that other people believe they hear from God and learns to give the benefit of the doubt even when you believe you are correct. The question remains, who determines what is from the Holy Spirit and what is not.
Emotions seem to be on the same mental wave length as the Holy Spirit. Both are somewhat intangible and where the Holy Spirit shows up there seems to be a lot of emotional experience. It becomes very difficult to determine what is from God and what is from emotion. If you have not learned to question if you are hearing from the Spirit or just want it badly, you probably judge that every idea you have is from the Holy Spirit. This invalidates your discernment. This requires a commitment to spiritual mentors who can share their concerns about your personal flaws, to give a check and balance for your own spirit. Until we learn to operate in this fashion, we cannot have iron sharpening iron.
So some want the Elders to remove the 8th Article forbidding the evangelizing of the Jews. Can I ask what definition one wishes to use so he can evangelize? Does he want to use the 5th and 6th Century model where we force them by law? Would he prefer the definition that was used during the crusades and use the sword as a means of conversion? Would he prefer to tell them they are going to Hell if they do not conform to the manner in which he believes. Maybe he wants to confront them in a public place and tell them the Gospel message. This brings us to what his definition is for the Gospel. It will depend on how long he has been in the movement, since the definition of the Gospel changes as he studies. It might be one thing initially and become something else later. We have no certain standard as to what people will be presenting as our view, so maybe it is best not to have anyone presenting their view in our name. Maybe he desires to send a bus out to pick up Jewish children and teach them against the teachings of their parents. What is your preferred definition for evangelization that you wish to exercise in the name of Bney Yosef? I know, which definition most people will use. It will be the one taught to them in their youth from their church. The question is, which definition above is correct? The answer is none of them. No definition so far has been a biblically based definition for the term evangelism. So, there may be good reason for the Elders of Bney Yosef to have an article discouraging evangelism. There is no standard definition that lets us know what we would be allowing; however, there is ample definition to let us know that what most people do, does not work. If you have a relationship with someone and have lived a life that has caused them to ask, then you should answer their questions. If you have not invested enough time with a person to get to know them well, you should keep quiet. This is as applicable to everyone as it is to the Jews. Let’s review article 8 as in the document.
Article 8 is as follows: “We will stand ready to give an answer for the hope of our calling, willing to share what we believe with anyone who desires to hear, this is our responsibility. Yet we acknowledge there is a difference between giving answers to questions asked and trying to convert another to our way of understanding and practice. Therefore, B’ney Yosef North America cannot and will not support or defend any attempts to evangelize the Jewish people.”
This begins stating that we will stand ready to give an answer for the hope of our calling… I am curious what is desired to be done beyond this. Maybe people think they should initiate the conversation. Does it in some way make it more righteous to be the initiator? People who answer questions that are not being asked falsely assume they are letting people know the facts of the matter. Their false assumptions lead them to make great mistakes. A question cannot be answered until the question is asked. Some want to shortcut the process and blurt out the answer before anyone even has the question. Such actions lead to anger, frustration, needless debate and endless contention. We do not desire to support such behavior or actions. This article says nothing about keeping people from stating that Yeshua is their Messiah. In fact maybe we should revisit paragraph six sentence two, in the opening statements. “Being drawn to the Torah, to the Land, and to the people of the Land, while retaining the testimony of Yeshua, we believe ourselves to be the ‘B’ney Yosef…’” Our statements about not evangelizing the Jewish people doesn’t state that we ditch the testimony of who brought us to this conclusion. It even states this as our purpose in the document. We are merely asking that people refrain from what their past denominations have taught or by example have perpetuated as evangelism. This is an extra biblical term that has much baggage, carnage and harm attached to it. We believe our example to be much more biblical.
Consider the term evangelist and look at Scripture to see who is called to be one. Ephesians 4:11 4 speaks of evangelists. It is in a list of offices. The word “some” is in each category and it is evident that not everyone got to hold one of those offices listed. So contrary to modern teaching, not everyone is given to be an evangelist. In the last few centuries, it has been taught that everyone who believes is to be an evangelist. This is a false portrayal of the desire of God. We have our definitions formed concerning evangelism, based on the teachings of the people that have misrepresented that everyone is required to be an evangelist. An evangelist is one who shares the good news. Was it good news that Christianity took over civil government and forced their interpretation of God’s law upon all in that dominion? Considering how the rulers acted, (not that everything was bad) I do not believe that to correctly represent the good news I find in Scripture. Was it good news that Christianity was going to take back Jerusalem and kill everyone who tried to get in their way? I do not believe that to have been the good news. Was the good news that you can go to heaven for eternity if you follow all the interpretations of Scripture that our denomination teaches, and you are going to Hell if you don’t? I don’t believe that would be received as good news. Is the good news that you don’t have to do anything to get eternal life but believe, and if you do anything that God commanded in the Old Testament, you may go to Hell for it? I don’t believe that. I know some of these definitions of the good news do not represent what was intended by their adherents, but that was the message they gave through their actions.
- Only a specific few are called to be Evangelists, not every believer.
- The English term evangelism is never mentioned in the New Testament. It is a term used by later teachers to instigate an action they wished for all believers to do.
- Evangelists were to share good news, not condemning judgment or lists of changes a person needs to make.
- The good news has been misrepresented by the actions of those who have taken on the mistakenly imposed job. Hence the actions understood today as evangelism misrepresent the intent of Scripture.
Jews and Evangelism
Can we even put ourselves in our brother Judah’s shoes? One of the most difficult parts of maturing in relationships is being able to understand those who are from a totally different perspective, culture and paradigm. In order to be able to properly analyze any subject to find truth, we must learn to properly judge in matters with people who are not like us. Judah has suffered greatly from Christian evangelization. Many Jews consider evangelism to be the second holocaust. What Hitler could not do by gas chambers and firing squads, the Christians try to finish by conversion. While I certainly do not agree that all evangelism is akin to Hitler’s extermination, it is obvious that they feel violated by Christian attempts to save them. I have heard a Jewish prayer several times from my Jewish friends, “Lord save us from those who wish to save us.” The Jews have endured the legal edicts made specifically about their practices perpetuated from the Holy Roman Empire. The Jews have been in the Holy Land when Christian troops came to Jerusalem to conquer it for God. The Jews were there when Martin Luther, a previous Christian Friend wrote the book, “The Jews and Their Lies.” The Jews were there when lies were told about them sacrificing Christian babies for sacrifices. The Jews were there when few Christians stood up for them while Hitler made his edicts to wipe them out.
Today we fault the Muslims for not distancing themselves from ISIS or Al Qaeda. How many Christians spoke up when Hitler started his pogroms? We think we would have. Hind sight is much clearer. It is interesting that Corrie ten Boom and her father are thought to be heroes– righteous gentiles. They and Detrick Bonhofer were some of the few who put their lives on the line to rescue Jews. Their actions spoke much louder than their preaching. The Jews have been harmed by mistaken notions under the guise of evangelism. Even Hitler is thought to be a Christian by them. They will not recover from this quickly. If we desire to speak peace into a Jew’s life, we must learn to act like Corrie ten Boom, not someone who states a lot of words informing them where they are wrong. We need to repent from our mistaken actions in evangelism toward the Jew.
Jews believe they are called by God to do certain things, one of which is to remain true to Torah. So when a Jew converts to Christianity, he is told to deny that Torah applies to him today. This takes him from the community and is considered to be equivalent to killing another Jew. Scripture also clearly forbids them to do this, 5 so it is no wonder that someone who is left in Judaism would think his brother to have followed after other gods. From a Jewish perspective, evangelism is their enemy. I recognize that Hebrew Roots believers are not trying to pull the Jew away from the Law, but from their perspective, history has shown evangelists tell them they do not have to do as God has instructed. The only way they will understand that you will not do this is to humbly keep the law in their presence. When you can keep your mouth shut and behave properly, they may be convinced that you are different. Expect this to take about 20 years.
We are dealing with damaged brothers. They have been harmed in the name of Christ Jesus and even Yeshua HaMashiach. When I was young, I was instructed by Messianic Jews that we should not say Jesus, because Jews have had such a bad experience with that name, instead we should say Yeshua. That will cause them to listen to your beliefs so you can share Yeshua with them. We were taught to go into synagogues and do as they do, to enable us to share Yeshua. We were to start Messianic synagogues so that they would feel comfortable when they came to visit. This would bring them to Messiah. All of these teachings are seen as deception by a Jew. Posing as something you are not, just to gain acceptance. Our history is not good. Their experience with evangelists is not good. How do we heal this wrong?
We cannot understand their view without having a similar experience. I believe our thoughts of Mormon evangelism and Jehovah Witness visits could give us a little understanding of what they experience from Christians and Hebrew Roots people. Most Christians have been taught not to even let someone from those organizations into your house. Isn’t it funny that we do not see our own attempts in like manner. We have been trained to revile these people and they haven’t even tried to kill us, outlaw our religious practice, or conquer us in the name of their God. Is it difficult for us to understand why Judah might revile us when our group has killed and manipulated by legal mandate? If you have a relationship with some Jewish friends, and they ask you to share your beliefs, then it is evident that this is not what we are trying to stop. If you go up to strangers and just announce that you are followers of Yeshua and then try to give them tracts or teach them about changes that they need to make in their lives, this is what we do not want to be associated with.
The leaders of Bney Yosef do not want to get between you and what you believe God has called you to do. If you believe that your calling from God is to be an evangelist, we would encourage you in that. However, if you feel compelled by the teaching of the church you grew up in, I suspect you need to be freed from misplaced guilt and responsibility. If you believe you have been called to be an evangelist then your actions may be contrary to the work of Bney Yosef, so we consider it to be necessary to separate in a loving and amiable fashion. We do not wish you harm, but desire God’s best for you. Bney Yosef is not an evangelistic organization and does not want to be associated with such actions. Some of you work in organizations that require their people to not evangelize while at work and many sign documents agreeing not to participate as a condition of their employment. Historical evangelism, where loving people went to a pagan culture and lived their life in a righteous manner sharing the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has developed into the largest religion in the world. Hysterical evangelism where some of those people used force to impose their beliefs, has done much harm. The leadership of Bney Yosef does not want the name of Bney Yosef North America to be associated with attempts to evangelize. It is contrary to the mission of Bney Yosef and if you consider the various definitions to that term that have been presented historically, you might understand why we think it is misguided.
1 “The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home, ’Tis summer, the darkies are gay.”
2 From Age of Chivalry and Faith at the United States Naval Academy. (c) 2009
3 Amillennialists do not believe in a literal millennium where Yeshua/Jesus reigns on this earth. They teach that Yeshua/Jesus is reigning in heaven at this time, sitting on His throne at the right hand of the Father and He will never set foot on this earth again. So all kingdom teaching from the Bible is applied as if we are in the kingdom now with Yeshua/Jesus reigning in Heaven. This means that His kingdom reigns through us following His example and teachings. It has also historically has spurred, the Holy Roman Empire, and the crusades.
4 NKJV Ephesians 4:11, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers…”
5 NKJV Deuteronomy 13:5, “But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.”