Question: I have a friend who has become interested in Jews for Jesus. What is the best way to approach this topic, in your opinion?
Answer: Jews for Jesus is a touchy subject for a lot of Jews. But before I go into a discussion of how to talk about it with your friend, I want to address the real possibility that your friend is exploring Jews for Jesus because he (or she) is going through a rough time and is looking for some support wherever he can get it.
Jews for Jesus emphasizes outreach and may have resonated with your friend if for any reason he’s been looking for a way to connect to other people. When you talk about it with him you might want to find out if there’s anything difficult going on in his life. Make sure your friend knows you support him and knows you’re happy to help him find some other community resources if he’s interested.
If your friend has been seriously investigating the theology of Jews for Jesus, you can try to help him clarify some of the theological issues at play.
Though Jews for Jesus like to refer to themselves as Jews, theologically they are absolutely Christians. The basis of all Christian theology is that Jesus was the messiah and that he died for the sins of mankind.
Jewish theology is built on the observance of mitzvot (commandments) in order to hasten the arrival of the messiah–who has not yet arrived. Judaism simply doesn’t recognize Jesus as the messiah. Jews for Jesus, even if they speak Hebrew, pray out of a siddur, or observe Shabbat, believe in a theology that is in opposition to Judaism.
You can also seek help from Jews for Judaism, an organization that aims to help counter the efforts of evangelical Christian organizations that target Jews for conversion. Jews for Judaism will offer information about how Judaism is different from what is often practiced in Messianic Jewish communities, and will present you and your friend with opportunities to strengthen your relationship with Judaism.
Religion and faith are complicated and intensely personal subjects. However much we might like to, we can’t control how our friends and family members feel about God and Judaism. What we can, and should do, is make sure that when they make decisions about faith, we’ve given them opportunities to learn about the history and culture of our own heritage, so that they can make an educated decision.
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