The headlines used words like “outrage” and “shock” in describing the news that a man thought to be a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbi living in Jerusalem was allegedly a Gentile Christian missionary. How could this be?
According to various news outlets, neither he nor his late wife were Jews at all, using forged documents to become Israeli citizens and choosing a Haredi lifestyle in order to infiltrate the religious community.
The Jewish News reported, “Outrage in Jerusalem over ‘rabbi’ exposed as Christian missionary. Israeli media say the man, named as Michael Elkohen, infiltrated a Charedi community in a bid to convert its members.” The headline in Yeshiva World News proclaimed, “New Shocking Details On The ‘Chareidi’ Missionary Family In Jerusalem.” (For a very personal perspective, see here. Elkohen claims that he used to do missionary work 7-8 years ago but has since “repented.”)
But it was not only these traditional Jewish news sites that expressed shock and outrage. The headline in Israel Today, a Messianic Jewish publication in Israel, read, “Shock After Christian Family Found Living as Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem.”
Yes, Jewish followers of Yeshua (Jesus) were taken aback as well, since we too denounce deceptive missionary tactics.
As stated in an official Jews for Jesus document titled, “Jews for Jesus Principles ff Ethical Ministry” (sent to me after I requested a statement from David Brickner, head of Jews for Jesus), “We are Jews. We believe in Jesus. In light of this, we clearly present who we are and what we believe (the Gospel message). We deplore materials and techniques that are deceptive or coercive.”
Similarly, Eitan Bar, one of the leaders of the Israel-based, Messianic Jewish evangelistic organization One for Israel, responded to my request for a statement, writing, “I am not familiar with the case nor do I know the family. However, as I wouldn’t want someone to deceive me saying he is a believer only to later find out he lied to me so he can ‘witness’ his faith to me, so I expect believers to hold to high standards and not deceive others by not sharing with them their true faith.”
So, on both a professional level, as reflected in the Jews for Jesus document, and on a personal level, as reflected in Eitan Bar’s email, we reject deceptive missionary techniques.
That’s why we have organizations with names like “Jews for Jesus” (I would say that’s pretty clear!). And that’s why organizations like Chosen People Ministries have mission statements reading, “We exist…to glorify God, proclaim the Gospel to the Jew first and also to the Gentile, and develop resources and programs to accomplish this task.” I would say that’s pretty clear too.
What, then, did Paul mean when he famously wrote 1 Corinthians 9:19-23? There he explained, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
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SOURCE: AskDrBrown.org, Michael Brown