22 August 2015

Jarryd Hayne, the Jews, and the Gospel

Jarryd Hayne and the Jews: "Is evangelism anti-Semitic?”

By Bob Mendelsohn
Jews for Jesus, National Director

During the 2015 Hillsong Conference, Jarryd Hayne, the former Parramatta Eels rugby league star, sent out a tweet to his followers, “Jesus wanted to help people but was killed by his own people." The next day after being challenged by one of his followers, that Jesus was killed by the Romans, Hayne wrote, “The Jews were the people who took him to the Romans n forced them to give the order because they couldn't."

Because of the tweets, Jewish representatives immediately launched a counter campaign. And Hayne removed the two tweets.

Michael Koziol of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote about Jewish reaction, “Chairman of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Dvir Abramovich, said he was deeply concerned by Hayne's tweets and labeled them "damaging, painful and irresponsible".

"For thousands of years Jews were held in contempt and were persecuted and murdered because they were labeled as Christ-killers," he said in a statement.

Koziol reported, “Most Christians no longer hold the view that the Jewish people were responsible for Jesus' death, and persistent belief in that narrative is now associated with anti-Semitism.”

Hayne later sent out an apology tweet which was welcomed by Jewish community representatives. But the issue remains unsettling for Jews. Some of Hayne’s Twitter followers chided him for his apology, using ugly language to describe Jewish people.

Hayne is a forthright Christian, and his comments about Jewish people, inspired by a sermon to which he was listening, highlight a larger question for the ordinary Christian in relation to evangelism. Is sharing the Gospel with Jewish people by nature anti-Semitic? Can a person have a view of another’s religion that is not tolerant or sympathetic, and yet be forthright in proclamation of Jesus?

I believe the exact opposite is actually true. If someone does not share the Gospel with a person because of an apparent theological difference, it actually is the most hateful thing a person can demonstrate. What if a pair of Jehovah’s Witness knocked at my door? What if my thoughts were: Since their religion is heretical, I will have nothing to do with them, ever, and thus refuse to share what I believe with them? Or imagine if I concluded the Muslim teller at my bank, with whom I at times share social pleasantries, was not able to hear the Gospel, because, well, they are followers of Islam and thus didn’t give them an invitation to my local church’s fete or carols program? That would be a very hateful thing to conclude.

The same is true for the ordinary Christian considering sharing faith with the ordinary Jewish person. I’m not saying that each person has to pounce on every situation and each person in their life, but I’m saying that with the people in our sphere of influence, when God gives us opportunity we should extend to them a snippet of the religion we hold so dear. To withhold a segue into Gospel presentation because of their religion being different or even wrong, that’s influenced by a wrong spirit.

Here is a definition. Evangelism: Giving someone an opportunity to say “yes” to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are two historical mistakes in sharing the Gospel with Jewish people. One: not giving them an option/ opportunity, but rather requiring the saying of ‘yes.’ This is most known in the Crusades, the Inquisition, and pogroms. Forced conversions/ baptisms of Jewish people is an ugly blight in Church history. I suppose some would say that “become a Christian or die” is an option, but it doesn’t really give the Jew an opportunity to say ‘no.’ By (my) definition if you give someone an opportunity to say ‘yes’ you are also giving them a chance to say ‘no.’ Wicked church persecution of the Jewish people prevents that ‘no’ saying.

The other historical error is more abundant in our days. Since the 1880s, worldwide, Jewish people are more in social contact with their Christian neighbours than ever before. Jewish people may enter into any field of study or occupation. Jewish academics since Schweitzer and Montefiore (around 1900) and throughout the 20th Century have “accepted” Jesus in a way that would make every Jewish scholar before more than uncomfortable. Notables in our days: Vermes, Flusser, A-J Levine, and even Rabbi Shmuley Boteach write about the New Testament and the Jesus of history with sensitive and Jewish eyes. Councils of Jews and Christians are allowing dialogue and mutual tolerance and acceptance globally.

That’s why Koziol’s remarks can be so forthright: “Most Christians no longer hold the view that the Jewish people were responsible for Jesus' death, and persistent belief in that narrative is now associated with anti-Semitism.”

With all the welcome and blame revision from the Jewish community, the 2nd great mistake Christians make viz evangelism is not giving the Jewish person a chance to say ‘yes.’ We hear officials and thus give the individual only the opportunity to say ‘no’, and thus fail to evangelize.

Either wrong is wrong. Giving the Jewish person only one option: to say ‘yes’ or to say ‘no,’ is not biblical evangelism.  Proclaiming the Gospel to each person, in language they can understand, via the personality and style of the Christian, that’s when rubber meets road. That’s when we are fulfilling the Great Commission.

To be fair, when rubber meets road much friction is caused. That’s what happened with Jarryd Hayne.  In measure that’s what you can expect from the ordinary Jewish person with whom you want to share the faith. I hear it a lot. But thousands, actually tens of thousands of Jews today, in Sydney, Melbourne, throughout Australasia and worldwide, who are now believers in and followers of the real Jesus, owe great gratitude to someone who had the character and courage to share the faith with them. And we are grateful.

Is evangelism anti-Semitic? The exact opposite is true. It’s the most loving thing a person can do with a Jewish neighbour, colleague or friend.

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If you have Facebook, you can see the thread of comments here:  Hayne on FB

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