A reporter once told me he was puzzled about my relationships with the Jewishcommunity. "You work closely with Jewish organizations dealing with religionand public life issues, yet you also lead a seminary that has a program inJewish evangelism. How do you resolve that contradiction?"
I explained that as an evangelical I have a nonnegotiable commitment toevangelism—and this includes witnessing to Jewish people about my firmconviction that Jesus is the promised Messiah. But I also oppose treatingJews as if they were only "targets" for evangelism.
We evangelicals have much to learn from Jews, not only about issues of publiclife, but also about deeply religious topics (seeReflections, p. 40). And we must work alongsidemembers of the Jewish community for justice and righteousness in the largersociety.
Witnessing to, learning from, cooperating with Jews: this is an importantagenda for evangelicals to pursue with the Jewish community. But it has notalways been easy for Christians to pursue all three tasks. Those strong onevangelism have often been weak on learning and cooperation; those eagerto nurture learning and cooperative relationships have often downplayed theevangelistic mandate.
Let's be clear about this: evangelism is a mandate. The Southern Baptistshave taken much criticism for their resolution a year ago on evangelizationof Jews (CT, July 15, 1996, p. 66;Nov. 11, 1996, p. 103); we can hope thatthis controversy will serve to inform the larger world that some of us reallydo believe we have an obligation to present the claims of the Christ tonon-Christians.
We need to keep reminding Jewish friends that if they are serious about havingbetter relations with evangelicals—which many of them are—they cannot demandthat ...1
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