Should Christians try to convert Jews to Christianity?
That was the question pondered in a news story I read recently at Forward.com. According to the story the Vatican drew flack from an organization called “Jews for Jesus,” because the former decided to exempt Jews from the church’s evangelistic efforts. Obviously, “Jews for Jesus” believe Jews need Jesus. And they believe it is perfectly acceptable to tell them as much. The Vatican is not so sure.
It’s difficult to escape the irony of it all – a Gentile church debating whether they should try to convince the people of Israel to believe in a Jewish Messiah. Jesus was born and raised as a Jew and is now followed by billions of Gentiles. Yet, relatively few (as far as I know) of “His own people” believe in Him. The scriptures make no attempt to hide the paradox. John (one of the original 12 Jewish apostles) said, “He came to His own (the Jewish people) and His own did not receive Him…” (see John 1:11)
Some did receive Him of course and some receive Him today. Indeed, if it weren’t for the Jews – Peter, Paul, John, to name but a few – there would be no Christian church. The vatican did acknowledge that “Christianity is rooted in Judaism.” But for some reason they think this means the Jewish people themselves do not need to become Christians.
My question is: What about Paul? He started out as a zealous Pharisee and a great persecutor of Christians, but an encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus completely changed the direction of his life. What if Paul never became a Christian? The vast majority of our New Testament would not exist. Self-described as a Hebrew of Hebrews Paul was the writer God used to pen a sizeable portion of the document that forms the bedrock of Christianity as we know it.
The Christian Church exists today because Jews became Christians. Of course, there are some, even Christians, who believe we should make no attempt to convert anybody, much less the Jews. But Jesus specifically said, “Go therefore and make disciples (Christians) of all the nations…” (see Matthew 28:19) The key phrase is “all the nations.” He didn’t say, “go and force people to become religious.” Or “go and try to make people come to church.” Becoming a Christian is all about free choice. It’s about giving people the freedom and option to become a Christian “if they want to become one.” If they don’t want to become one then that is their choice. We must respect it.
Not everybody will accept the message. Some will completely reject it. But given the eternal significance of the matter we have to at least give them a fighting chance.
READ FULL STORY ABOUT THE VATICAN’S DECISION @ FORWARD.COM
LEARN MORE ABOUT JEWS FOR JESUS @ JEWSFORJESUS.ORG