Reaching God's Chosen People

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2. There is a distinct need for understanding and sensitive terminology. For example, the very term Messianic for this ministry is a strategic choice--one that peculiarly often faces criticism by Christians who don't realize how objectionable to Jews such words as "church," "Christian," "conversion" or even Jesus' name have become.

To many Jews, the word "Christian" is weighted with negativity often completely unknown to or misunderstood by evangelical believers. Yet, whether we feel it is fair or not, these Jewish feelings are fully understandable when we see these facts of history as the majority of Jews do. These facts have shaped their view of Christians and Christianity.

The crusaders (11th and 12th centuries), formally commissioned by Rome to drive "the infidel Moslems" from the Holy Land, just as readily killed Jews for the same reason--by the thousands.

Hosts of Jews were killed by the official church during the Spanish Inquisition (14th and 15th centuries) because they would not convert to Christianity on demand.
For centuries, most Christians dubbed all Jews as "the Christkillers," and generations of children were taught anti-Semitic attitudes as a deserved retribution.

The Protestant Reformation included no reform of the above attitudes; in fact, Martin Luther himself, in the spirit of the times, wrote with deep animosity against Jews.
The Nazi Holocaust--targeting the extermination of the Jewish people--was spawned in a nation that was nominally Christian. Meanwhile, most "Christian" nations around the world--including the United States--did virtually nothing to stop the slaughter.

To the average Jewish mind, these events define the Christian attitude toward Jews, and thus the idea of becoming a Christian is readily defined as betrayal of one's own people and a renouncing of one's ethnic origin and history.

Thus, since "Christ" literally means "Messiah," and since the Messiah is still a person longed and hoped for by multitudes of Jews, those seeking to communicate God's love to today's Jews refer to themselves as "Messianic"--i.e., of or concerning "the Messiah"--rather than as "Christian."

3. Another key term, obviously essential in Messianic ministry, is the name of Jesus. Few contemporary Christians are aware of how sorely distorted the English name of our Savior, Jesus, has become, both by the failures of history we've reviewed as well as the corruption of His name and its meaning in the Jewish culture.

The name Yeshua is the literal Hebrew equivalent of Jesus' name, and is used in all Messianic ministry today. This, too, is often objected to by some who brand the practice "cultish" (though such a charge would never be brought against a Hispanic ministry for pronouncing Jesus "Hay-soos").

4. Finally, the times demand removing objections. We must remove the objections Messianic Jews (i.e., present-day Jewish believers in Jesus/Yeshua as the Messiah, the Son of God and the only Savior of mankind) often face for celebrating holidays unique to the Jewish culture. But we need to discern between the propriety of a Messianic Jewish believer's celebration of timeless events within the framework of their culture and the proposition that "this practice is a regressive dependence upon the law rather than grace." Such criticism is as meaningless as assailing an American Christian for celebrating the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving.

These issues only open a subject that calls the whole church to awareness and sensitivity if a present, prophetically pregnant moment is to birth its possibilities. Otherwise, we may unwittingly mirror the very thing done by many believing Jews in New Testament times. Though born again themselves, they rejected Gentiles who had received Jesus as the Messiah/Savior unless he or she practiced Jewish traditions (see Gal. 1, 2; Rom. 1-4). But that "renewal" was sustained as Jerusalem's church leaders--all of them Jewish--took discerning action, and God's Word triumphed over human misunderstanding (see Acts 11:1-18; 15:1-32).

May the same Holy Spirit of renewal help us in the same way today. The times we are in invite it; the Holy Spirit of truth requires it. It is rooted in the belief that the revelation of God's Word relates an end-times spiritual awakening among the Jews to a global move of the Holy Spirit in reviving, life-giving power.


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