The Challenge of Saul & the Hope of Paul,
If you thought that belief in Yeshua HaMashiach was the greatest danger faced by the Jewish people, then you might easily join the anti-missionaries. Though they prefer to call themselves counter-missionaries, in reality they do more than counter – they go on the offensive.
Anti-missionaries operate as part of a professional, full-time, well funded response by the Jewish community not only to Christian mission, but also to the gospel itself. Strangely, however, this modern phenomenon has not registered as an issue of concern on the radar of most evangelical scholars.
The Challenge of Saul
At my last count, there were sixty-three anti-missionary offices globally. It may very well be the case that there are more anti-missionaries than actual missionaries to the Jews. In Britain, the major anti-missionary organisation is the Birminghambased Operation, Judaism, led by Rabbi Shmuel Arkush. However, Rabbi Arkush's outfit pales into insignificance in comparison with the large, slick American-based groups, such as, Jews for Judaism and Outreach Judaism. In Israel, pride of place among the anti-missionary groups is reserved for the ultra-
Orthodox organisation, Yad L'Achim (Hand to the Brothers), headed by Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifshitz. Yad L'Achim is the Big Daddy of anti-missionary organisations and receives some funding from Israel's Interior Ministry. Their approach is not as tame as those of their Diaspora counterparts. One of their full time Orthodox operatives is ex-Russian policeman Alex Artovsky. In the Orthodox weekly newspaper HaModia, Artovsky boasted that he had utilized all the tricks of his old trade in the former Soviet Union and had “a plant” in every Messianic congregation in Israel. Yad L'Achim is responsible for instigating the recent persecution of Messianic Jews in Beer Sheva and Arad.
The anti-missionaries accuse Christian missionaries of unethical behaviour of the worst type. In reality, however, the accusations have boomeranged back to hit them. In Israel, violent intimidation is regularly meted out to Messianic Jews. Individuals are followed and photographed, their places of work are visited and their employers are informed that they have a “missionary” working for them (ironically, the anti-missionaries have realized something that most Christians haven’t: that all followers of Yeshua are missionaries!) Warning posters with the photographs and personal details of individual believers are posted all over their neighbourhoods. Properties belonging to Messianic congregations are sabotaged: glue is poured into locks to prevent access to meeting places, mobs are whipped-up to protest loudly and violently, and false accusations are submitted to the police. Sometimes even worse things happen.
The secular majority in Israel tends not to like the ultra-orthodox. However, even secular Israelis like the idea that someone is preserving what they see as Jewish identity and culture. This has created a moral blind spot with regard to the way Israelis view the minority of Messianic Jews. Jewish believers in Yeshua are systematically victimised and intimidated on a level that no other group of Israeli citizens are expected to endure. Israeli law has exacerbated the problem by ruling that a Messianic Jew is no longer Jewish. This means that under Israel’s Law of Return, Messianic Jews cannot immigrate to Israel. However, Israeli citizens who identify themselves as Messianic Jews will neither have their citizenship revoked nor be deported. Although Israeli Messianic Jews are
Jewish enough to put their lives in danger by serving in Israel's army, Messianic Jews in the Diaspora are not Jewish enough to immigrate.
Two Way Street of Blame
It has to be said that there have been occasions when Christian evangelism to Jewish people has lacked sense and sensitivity. Undeniably, most Jewish people identify belief in Yeshua with a history of crusades, persecutions and pogroms, and there have been times when evangelists have adopted aggressive methods of ministry and, by so doing, have generated an aggressive response. If our methodology is controversial we must expect to be regarded as controversial. In mission to the Jewish people, evangelists have not always remembered that we
Have to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. It is doubtful if missionaries to Muslims would be expected to act in the way that some Christians expect Jewish evangelism to be done.
The Hope of Paul
Lest anyone should think that the rise of the anti-missionary movement is a sign that God has cast off the Jewish people, it should be remembered that the anti-missionaries are responding out of fear of the large numbers of Jewish people who believe in Yeshua as Messiah and Lord. Rabbi Tovia Singer, one of the most influential anti-missionaries in America, asked some years ago why more Jews had become Christians “in the last 19 years than in the last 1,900 years”. It has certainly not been because of “the Church”, because the Church’s interest in
Jewish evangelism is at an all time low! The phenomenal growth of Jews who believe in Yeshua is evidence that God “has not cast away his people which he foreknew”. Let us be encouraged. A nascent anti-missionary movement was present in the days of the apostles, and the Lord transformed the chiefest among them. So let us pray for the anti-missionaries, remembering that every Saul is a potential Paul!
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Reprinted by permission.