Jews for Jesus 88 248.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I am completely misunderstood. As a countermissionary, people think that it's my goal in life to make people miserable, to persecute poor Christians living in our country and to tell people what they should believe. Nothing could be further from the truth. People think that a countermissionary's raison d'Ãªtre is to destroy freedom of religion and to create within Israel a state similar to that of the Muslim countries that surround us, where no one has any freedom to believe anything other than those beliefs held by the thugs who hold power. Again, wrong. Some people think I hate Christians. Wrong also.
Believe it or not, the purpose of a countermissionary is ultimately to improve Jewish-Christian relations. As it says in Robert Frost's poem, "Mending Wall," good fences make good neighbors. By teaching Jews why we are not Christians and by teaching Christians to respect our boundaries, we improve relations between the two faiths. Blurring the lines between the two faiths doesn't serve to bridge the gap caused by fear and misunderstanding; it weakens Judaism and causes Christians to have less respect for the Jewish people. Breaking down the walls breaks down the distinctiveness and the different callings of each faith system, and only fosters more hatred and fear.
The purpose of the countermissionary is to strengthen the Jewish people and to teach Christians that we have reasons for choosing to reject their faith. When they can understand and accept this, we can progress to a level of rejecting their faith without rejecting them as people, and the two peoples can live side-by-side in mutual respect and understanding, agreeing to disagree.
WHEN WE say that it should be illegal to proselytize in Israel, we are not saying that a Christian doesn't have the right to believe as he wishes or even to worship God as he sees fit. What we are saying is that a Jew has the right to live in the Jewish state in freedom, without needing to worry about being harassed by someone trying to convince him that his faith is not good enough, that he needs to accept Christianity's concept of God to be able to even have a relationship with God in the first place, or that his child will be convinced to abandon the faith of his forefathers.
We are asking the Christian to exercise true friendship. The message we are sending to our Christian friends is this: The Jewish people who live here would like to make a request of you. Please don't proselytize while you are here. If you are truly our friends, you won't. Why? Because friends are friends with no strings attached. We understand that your faith and belief system compels you to share what you believe with all who do not, regardless of their own personal faith or lack thereof.
WE UNDERSTAND that your Bible instructs you to make it a priority to share your faith with the Jewish people, since Jesus was Jewish. Some even say that because of this they owe the Jews a debt of gratitude.
But gratitude is best shown with respect to the person on whom it is being bestowed and not with respect to the giver. Please show us that you respect us by not trying to convince us to change our beliefs.
We understand that the reason you feel compelled to share your beliefs with us is that your faith teaches that without a belief in Jesus, no one can have a relationship with God. Please remember that the Jewish faith has always taught about having an intimate relationship with God - and it did this thousands of years before Jesus or the New Testament.
The vast majority of us are either immigrants or the children and grandchildren of immigrants. We came to this country because we wanted live in a Jewish state. Had we not wanted this, we might have chosen to live elsewhere.
Please respect our faith and our feelings and refrain from proselytizing while you are visiting our home.
Good fences really do make good neighbors, and countermissionaries really are misunderstood. We are here to build, not to destroy; to foster greater understanding, not to promote hatred.
But we do this only through strengthening Judaism, not by blurring the lines between it and Christianity.
The writer, now the director of Shomrei Emet Institute for Countermissionary Studies and the founder of Torah Life Strategies, spent over 17 years in Christian and Messianic outreach and missions before returning to the Jewish faith.