In many portions and in divers ways, the issue of Christian "proselytizing" keeps coming up.
In some countries, it is illegal; in ours, it is disdained as being in bad taste. "I don't care if he's a Christian, so long as he keeps it to himself" -- which is not unlike, "I don't care if he's a chef, so long as he never serves any food."
Whoever says this reveals that he knows nothing about Biblical Christianity. It is tantamount to saying, "Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength -- just don't let it affect the way you think or talk about anything, and don't tell anybody about your first and greatest love. Love your neighbor as yourself -- but learn to be OK with him going to Hell without you telling him the Word by which he might hear and be brought to saving faith."
In other words, "Be a Christian... just don't be a Christian!"
I'm thinking about this in connection with the Jerry Falwell incident. By now, you probably know about the initial Jerusalem Post (false) report that Falwell had been persuaded that Jews had an alternate way to Heaven that didn't require faith in Jesus. Frank Turk immediately did what I then immediately wished I'd done, which was to email Falwell directly. I've learned from Frank yet again, and am humbled and grateful for it.
Falwell put out A GRACIOUS CORRECTION OF THE JERUSALEM POST, in which he very clearly affirmed the exclusivity of the Gospel.
Thursday, the Jerusalem Post cleared the record. In fact, one wishes that the Washington Post and the NYT would learn from the objectivity and thoroughness with which the Jerusalem Post reports Falwell's categorical denial of their misreporting.
But my attention was caught by how WorldNetDaily reports this. In this unsigned article, the wording caught my eye and set me to thinking. To me, it reflects (not maliciously, I assume) the same perspective that fueled the original mis-reporting. Here is part, emphases added:
Evangelist Jerry Falwell has a beef with the Jerusalem Post after the newspaper published an article suggesting he's changed his beliefs about salvation, now thinking Jews can get to heaven without becoming Christians first.The wording is of the sort that reflects the thought that what Christians are trying to do is get Jews to stop being Jews. This plays into the frequent charge that evangelism is anti-Semitic, or almost genocidal. The assumption is that "you can't be a Jew and a Christian."
"Falwell: Jews can get to heaven," is how the headline read on a story by Ilan Chaim, with its lead sentence stating: "An evangelical pastor and an Orthodox rabbi, both from Texas, have apparently persuaded leading Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell that Jews can get to heaven without being converted to Christianity."
Now of course, behind this lies the greater and long-debated issue: "What is a Jew?" Even Jews have differing views on this.
But let's reflect a moment on the perspective that what Christians are saying is that a Jew has to stop being a Jew, and be a Christian instead, to go to Heaven. The original story reflects that it is shared by many in Israel; you and I know from experience that it is shared by Jews and others everywhere.
I think of a Jewish lady I know and like. When I mentioned in passing "a Jewish friend at my church," she stopped me right there. There is no such thing, I was told, with some mild profanity for emphasis. If he believed in Jesus, he wasn't a Jew anymore. "What is he, then?" I asked. "Mexican?"
We then had the start of an interesting talk. Think of it: here is a woman who does not believe that the Old Testament is the inerrant Word of God, but who does define herself as a Jew, and does feel herself in a position to pronounce against the Jewishness of a man who does believe that the Old Testament is the Word of God. Others have no problem calling atheists "Jews." But not Jews who admit that Jesus is the Messiah. They're not Jews anymore.
There's something wrong with that.
By starkest contrast, as a Christian who -- unlike most Jews -- actually and emphatically believes in the Divine origin of every word of the Old Testament, I would say you can't be a Jew (except ethnically) without being a Christian.
Being a Christian by definition means believing what Jesus taught. Jesus taught that the Old Testament was the inerrant Word of God, and that it pointed to Him. Therefore, being a Christian necessarily and definitionally involves believing every word of the Old Testament, and believing that it finds its fulfillment in Christ.
Jesus claimed, emphatically and repeatedly, to be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. I'm sure you share my wish that you could have heard Him opening up the Word to the men on the road to Emmaus, and to the disciples afterwards (Luke 24:25-27, 44-49). If He isn't the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, then Jesus was wrong. If Jesus were wrong, I wouldn't believe in Him.
But I do believe in Him. This necessarily means that I believe that the Old Testament legitimately and actually reveals and points to Him. I do not believe it was a secret codebook; I do not believe that Jesus or the apostles rewrote it, or altered its meaning. I don't believe that the relationship of the Old and New Testament is "bait and switch."
Plain enough? Painfully?
This all means that, as a Christian, I believe that if someone reads the Old Testament and is not pointed to Jesus, he is reading it wrongly. Put another way, I believe that anyone who reads the Old Testament rightly will believe in Jesus. Affirming the truth of the Old Testament necessarily involves affirming the truth of Jesus.
In other words, I really do believe Jesus. (Breaking news! Christians believe Christ! Film at eleven!)
Let's be even more specific. If I believe Deuteronomy 18:15-22 (especially v. 19), then I must believe that a Jew must believe Jesus, or he is in the exact same category as the Jews in the wilderness who (A) refused to enter Canaan when Yahweh told them to go in, and then (B) refused to stay out when He said to start wandering in the desert (Numbers 13-14). He is ethnically a Jew, but he is an unbeliever (see Isaiah 1:4ff.).
The issue is not being a Jew, per se, any more than it is being a Christian, per se. It isn't a matter of religious self-categorization, much less ethnic identity.
The issue is what it has always been: what you and I do with God's Word. And God's Word points to Jesus.
So the issue is what you and I do with Jesus.
So when I call Jews to believe in Jesus, I'm not calling them to stop being Jews, per se -- depending on what you mean by "Jew." I do not accept the definition of a "Jew" as "someone who doesn't believe in Jesus." If a Jew (or anyone else) does not believe in Jesus, he does not believe in the Old Testament, among other things. And I have a problem with saying that someone is a "Jew," other than ethnically, if he does not believe in the Old Testament.
Whether for Jews, Mexicans, Americans, Russians, or anyone else, the issue is Jesus. Everything else grows out of that one central reality.
Where did I get that idea? Same place I ultimately get all my best ideas: from Jesus.