This has become a very contentious issue in Christianity today. It has split the followers of Yeshua into two groups with polar-opposite views on the subject.
The first group, the traditional majority, are quite adamant that Jewish Israel should be treated no different than any other nation. They believe that Christians who say they love Israel and don’t boldly proclaim the Gospel to them are being two-faced. For them proclaiming the Gospel is understood as a face-to-face with someone to “make a decision for Christ.”
The second group is comprised mostly of those known as “Christian Zionists.” Their view, which I subscribe to wholeheartedly, believes that in Israel love in action will speak louder than words. “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).
The reason this group believes sharing the Gospel must be different in Israel is because Jews are not like any other people on earth. Nor is their situation. “From the standpoint of the Gospel they are enemies for your sake. But from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:28,29).
After centuries of hateful persecution by the church, most Jews don’t want to hear another word from a Christian concerning “That Man.” They have heard it all, often at the point of a sword. And since we are now in their land they don’t have to.
The only ones I feel who have any right to talk boldly about Yeshua in Israel are Jewish believers. They have a common heritage with Israelis, and have no doubt suffered similar discrimination in their lives. They at least can share how God showed them Yeshua really is the Messiah.
Of course, Jewish believers have their own difficulties because though physically Jewish they are now viewed by their brethren as “Christians.” Sometimes even called “traitors.” Still, I believe they have more right to initiate sharing the Gospel message one-on-one than the rest of us. But any evangelism, even if done by Jews, will be ineffective if not done respectfully, in love and in God’s anointing.
At the root of this whole controversy in Christendom, I believe, is how one views “chosenness” under the New Covenant. This Biblical doctrine, taught most notably by John Calvin, has long been a cause of division in the church. But as we know, division is not always a bad thing. Not when it is based on truth and a separation from error. Yeshua himself said, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division” (Luke 12:51). The Reformation was certainly a good thing. And one day the wheat must be separated from the tares.
Christians who believe God is no longer choosing one person or group over another reject the idea of Jewish Israel today still being a chosen people. A view no doubt reinforced by an unhealthy dose of Replacement Theology. For them, all that matters is if one is saved or not. Since most Israelis still reject Yeshua as the Messiah they are viewed as being in the enemy’s camp and are deemed legitimate targets for a missionary project. Ignoring the painful historical background between Christians and Jews they get off the plane in Tel Aviv with Gospel tracts, ready to launch their Gospel crusade.
Although these folks no doubt sincerely believe they are doing the will of God and fulfilling the commandment “to go into all the world and preach the Gospel,” in reality they are not. Many are probably just fulfilling their pastor’s outreach program. And because of their lack of discernment, they are actually interfering with the true work God is doing in the land. Which is to lovingly restore Israel after 2000 years of exile so she is ready to enter the coming Kingdom of God.
That’s where I believe God is using Christian Zionism. We just want to show them the love of God in Yeshua. If they ask why we care,*we wouldn’t be shy about telling them. But by then some kind of relationship has been established. They are asking because they see something in us they’ve not seen in many Christians before.*
But just because we see sharing the Gospel to be different in Israel, and to Jews everywhere, doesn’t mean we believe the Gospel itself is different for them. Which some accuse us of teaching. No, Yeshua was quite clear that unless one is spiritually reborn “he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). And the only way for that to happen is through faith in Yeshua.
As we know, the word “Gospel” means “good news.” When it’s seen as “bad news” it’s time to stop talking. I can appreciate what Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein said in a previous Israel Today article: “If God wants Jews to believe in Jesus, He will take care of it.”
Since we know He does, we know He will. But it will be in His timing and in His way.
Brian Hennessy is author of Valley of the Steeples