The Articles of Declaration were accepted pretty much unanimously at the B’ney Yosef Summit in Tampa a couple weeks ago. One article, however, continues to be a topic of discussion, and while I am not the authority (if you have concerns, I suggest taking them up with the Elders), I do want to share a few of my thoughts…
The first time I read the eighth article, I had some questions I had to sort through. Here, for context, is the article in question:
We will stand ready to give an answer for the hope of our calling, willing to share what we believe with anyone who desires to hear; this is our responsibility. Yet we acknowledge there is a difference between giving answers to questions asked and trying to convert another to our way of understanding and practice. Therefore, B’ney Yosef North America cannot and will not support or defend any attempts to evangelize the Jewish people.
My initial response was skepticism precisely because the last sentence flies in the face of the paradigm I was raised in. I needed answers, so I began to wrestle and process.
The first big break through in understanding came when I had the brilliant idea of looking up what the word ‘evangelize’ means. Seriously, what is the definition?? Here are a few screen shots that will quickly bring clarity…
Suddenly, the picture was markedly clearer and I began to understand the paradigm I was raised in.
This isn’t just a couple witnesses… I decided I didn’t need to keep looking. Those are the top five hits that came up when I searched ‘define evangelize.’
Without even thinking, I knew that converting the Jews to Christianity is decidedly NOT what I want to do or have any part of. As readers of my blog can attest, there is much in Christendom that needs reforming because it is radically contrary to God’s everlasting and unchanging Word. Converting Jews to eat ham sandwiches would be a travesty.
But, I wasn’t done processing. The root of evangelize, from the Greek, has more to do with sharing good news, generally associated with Yeshua and the restoration of the Kingdom. Unfortunately, the Christian paradigm I was raised in is altogether oblivious to the latter and define ‘sharing the good news’ as ‘I want you to become like me in my lawlessness.’
In fact, Christians have an 1800+ year history of evangelization that includes swords, fires, torture, maiming, starvation and other extreme measures so they could ‘show the love of Christ.’ You don’t have to ask the Jews, though they well know. Just look at the track record against the American Indians, or a thousand foreign cultures we’ve senselessly demolished. Seriously!! That is the track record of ‘evangelism.’
We burn our own at the stake over doctrinal differences!!
[Aside: When we first came to Torah and I came out of the pulpit a well-meaning but wildly misguided pastor in my community emailed me and said ‘the most loving thing we can do is to shun you and treat you as unbelievers.’ That’s the point at which many family and friends began avoiding us like the plague… ]
So, if ‘evangelize’ means to share good news, what happened? I don’t fully know, but I suspect a spirit of religion, disguised as zeal, began to justify any means necessary to bring a new convert in so the scalp could be hung and gun notched. God must have been overjoyed!
As I continued to ponder the eighth article, I recognized that most dissenters focus on the last sentence without studying the first two.
Reread sentence one:
We will stand ready to give an answer for the hope of our calling, willing to share what we believe with anyone who desires to hear; this is our responsibility.
Please. What part of that sentence says that we can not share why we do what we do and in Whom is our hope? In fact, the sentence accurately reflects the fact that we have a responsibility to share, however that doesn’t give us the authority to break down boundaries and force ourselves on anyone! Jew or non!
In fact, I am reading a terrific book right now about ‘boundaries.’ I may review it if the time allows, but for now I can say, every one, particularly in the Messianic, needs to take the time to read this dynamite book!! It will revolutionize your approach to sharing your beliefs and will assure better reception and blessings in the giving! A brief capsule would say, ‘any who come not by the gate are robbers and thieves who kill and destroy.’ Our Messiah is a gentleman who stands at the door and knocks… 😉
The authors of the Articles make a very nice transition in the second sentence to articulate the difference between sharing and evangelizing in the traditional sense as defined by multiple dictionaries. They state,
Yet we acknowledge there is a difference between giving answers to questions asked and trying to convert another to our way of understanding and practice.
There it is: The definition of evangelize is to ‘convert’ to our way of thinking. Generally speaking, as previously witnessed, our way of thinking was Christendom. We are changing, growing and unlearning many things.
Fact: I/we have not arrived yet and have much yet to adjust in our paradigms before we are fully in alignment with Scripture. If we haven’t arrived and we know that some things are yet subject to change, we know that we are moving toward the Torah, why would we seek to impose our own changing belief system on brother Judah?
Maybe, just maybe, the wisest thing we can do is to live out and share what we are learning and the hope we have in Yeshua while letting the Spirit do what He wants to do in their lives!
Prophecy promises that Judah will recognize the Messiah at the appropriate time. For some that may be sooner than later, but it doesn’t require of us results. It requires of us that we simply live as witnesses who are ready to give an answer as often as opportunity presents itself!
A final thought: We have had the ‘Great Commission’ drilled into our heads, but did you know that a huge percentage of translations mistranslate this passage? Here is what it says in the KJV,
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
A proper translation should read,
‘As you are going, ….’
This means as you are a bus driver or carpenter or banker, etc… as you are going about your life doing those things, teach. Essentially, the sharing/teaching is a natural outflow, not the primary focus.
These are a few of my thoughts. Please remember, as it states on the upper right, this blog does not necessarily reflect BYNA, it is a reflection of my thoughts. I.e., I am happy to discuss my perspective, but if you want to discuss BYNA’s on this issue, I recommend talking to the Elders.