A friend shared an opinion piece this week that discussed several reasons Jews don’t accept Jesus as Messiah. It caught my attention because this is a question you’ll hear from time to time in Christian circles. Since Jesus was Jewish and knew Jewish scripture and culture, why don’t those who share his tradition believe in him?
Many followers of Jesus make wrong assumptions about Jewish people who do not. One response I’ve heard repeated is that their allegiance to their faith blinds them to the truth of Jesus. It’s the same reason the Pharisees rejected Jesus. They were too invested in their way of faith. That was the accusation Jesus made toward them.
An unfortunate perception permeates our Christian talk about Jewish beliefs. Many of us think they dismiss Jesus out of defiance of God’s grace. To be sure, many people, Jewish or not, probably do. We all are like that at times.
There are, however, several pointed reasons a Jewish believer may reject Christ as Messiah. I’m not going to bring up all the reasons. I’ll leave that to your own Google search.
But two reasons stand out to me. They connect to each other, and they shape a big part of how I view ministry and discipleship.
The first is a big-picture reason. If Jesus was God’s Messiah then the world should have been redeemed after his anointing. The world, though, is still full of suffering and pain. What’s more, we cannot get through world history without recognizing how Christians have often added to the world’s suffering and pain. That is the second reason.
We tell people to follow Jesus because he is Lord. We also say that he loves us and transforms our lives. Amen! I affirm that with all my faith.
But we can miss how our witness can lead others away from Christ. The way we live matters. Hiding behind the edict that “nobody’s perfect,” we think that others shouldn’t look to us as examples. If people reject Christ, then, they’re rejecting his truth. Not our witness, we assume. That makes them stiff-necked and hard of heart.
Again, maybe they are. I’m not saying people cannot learn about Christ on their own. But neglecting what your personal witness as a believer and our collective witness as a church says to the world does not bring glory to God. And we think it lets us off the hook.
There are sinful, prideful and selfish reasons to reject Christ. Let’s consider, though, there might be good reasons, too. If we haven’t shown the world that a life lived in supposed fear of God isn’t any different than any other life, whose fault is that? What if we’re the ones spewing racist language and hateful commentary? Instead of shining like stars in the world, many of us carelessly and foolishly add to the noise of destruction around us.
Forgive me if you’ve heard me say this more than a few times. You and I don’t get to choose to be a witness to Christ. You are a witness. Period. The only choice you make is what kind of witness you are.