A Messianic Jewish leader’s wife came up to me in tears. A major Christian Zionist prayer event had just concluded in Jerusalem. Why was she crying? Shouldn’t we all be rejoicing that this event had taken place, an event where Christians from around the world, including some who were internationally known leaders, prayed together and took a stand for Israel? The reason for the tears? Messianic Jews were not part of the program. Only Christians and Jews who were not followers of Yeshua were included. The sense of rejection, of being relegated to “the back of the bus,” was very wounding to this dear sister.
Why Messianic Jews are Offended
Many Messianic Jews are offended at the Christian Zionist leaders and organizations. They show support for Israel and world Jewry while at the same time distancing themselves to varying degrees from the Messianic Jews. I have argued in the past that this distancing is not necessary and that the Jewish community, which needs Christian support, will back down from requiring this separation. However, this is not certain. Jewish religious leaders who partner with Christian Zionists are sometimes under terrible pressure from other Orthodox leaders in Israel. Some claim that these Jews are compromising with idolaters. Others claim that Christian Zionists are not seeking only to support Israel, but that their efforts are a ruse to soften Jewish hearts for an eventual evangelistic thrust. (This of course is not their intent.) Yet, at the same time, Messianic Jews, who are brothers and sisters in Yeshua, find it quite strange that they are not the first priority for support from their fellow believers among Christian Zionists.
Understanding Christian Zionism Today
How should we respond? First of all, we should define Christian Zionism and then note that there is great variety among Christian Zionists. Christian Zionists are those Christians who believe that the Jewish return to the land of Israel is of God and that the Jewish people have a right to dwell in their ancient land and govern themselves as a state. They see this as a fulfillment of prophecy. Some Christian Zionists believe that Israel should take all the Land now. Others believe that Israel is in a process of redemption and due to the present state of unbelief among the great Jewish majority; such a course would be unwise. The very pressures caused by the current tension over occupational rights to the land are part of God’s plan to draw Israel to Himself.
Some Christians Zionists have made their support of Messianic Jews their first priority. They do this publicly. This includes such well-known leaders as Coach Bill McCartney of Promise Keepers and the Road to Jerusalem. Others think such public support is imprudent. Why show public support for Messianic Jews when Jewish sensitivities are so great? So instead they provide support behind the scenes; sometimes in very significant ways. Then there are those who simply will have nothing to do with Messianic Jews. Yes, they think that the Jewish people will respond to Yeshua at the end of this Age, just before or after the Second Coming. Their love will be part of this occurring. However, overt evangelism now and support for Messianic Jews, in their view, undercuts the whole program.
Understanding Christian Zionist History
There is a history of Christian Zionism that goes back to the Puritans in the 17th century. Before the Holocaust, Christian Zionists were in favor of overt witness to Jews, and they were not rejected by the Jewish community for such a stand. From the early Puritan beginnings, Christian Zionist influence continued to increase; in the mid 19th century, England, Germany and Scandinavia took steps to foster the return of Jews to the Land and to see an Anglican Jewish expression established in Jerusalem. On the other hand, very few believed that Jews who came to faith in Yeshua were still called to live and identify themselves as Jews. (The Moravians under the famous Count Ludwig Von Zinzendorf did embrace this idea.) Christian support for Zionism continued into the 20th century with many key personalities playing major roles. Examples are Lord Balfour, the author of the famous Balfour declaration, and Major Orde Wingate, who trained the people who formed the Jewish Defense Force.
After the Holocaust, Christians were terribly embarrassed by the complicity of institutional Christianity in Anti-Semitism and the relative lack of Christian resistance to the Holocaust in Europe. Christians no longer considered evangelizing Jewish people as a credible activity. This trend influenced Evangelical Zionists who empathized with Jewish sensitivities. Jewish leaders were clear they did not want support from those who desired them to embrace Yeshua. In response, many Christian Zionists supported the idea that faith in Yeshua for Jews was something for the end of the Age when God would supernaturally open their eyes. They embraced supporting the Jewish restoration as part of fulfilled prophecy, but not the restoration of belief in Yeshua. The emergence of a vibrant and expanding movement of Israeli Messianic believers challenged the theological presuppositions behind this sort of support.
A Righteous Messianic Jewish Response to Christian Zionism
Messianic Jews need to respond to the Christian Zionist-Jewish partnership by first dealing with their hurt and sense of rejection. We have to bring our pain to the cross and allow God to heal us. There is nothing to be gained by walking in hurt over our situation and anger over the fact that the great bulk of Christian support goes to Jewish organizations that not only do not embrace Yeshua, but in some instances persecute Messianic Jews. We should not be angry at Jewish religious and political leaders who have been successful in raising support. Instead, we need to come to a place of gratitude that there is Christian-Jewish cooperation for the sake of strengthening Israel even if we are left out.
I know this is hard, but we have to bear the particular cross that is ours; standing in the difficult place of being Messianic Jews in the context of the terrible history of our people. Some will reject us as traitors to our people and an impediment to good relationships among Jews and Christians. It is our glory to embrace this criticism for the sake of the truth of the Good News. Once we find our healing at the cross, we can begin to deal with the issues of righteousness. The primary way to deal with these matters is through prayer. I am glad for those Christian Zionists that have gone public with their support for Messianic Jews. They are an important testimony to the Jewish community.
I cannot say that those who support Messianic Jews behind the scenes while being public with general Jewish support through Christian Zionist organizations are wrong. Maybe they should be public in their support, but on the other hand, maybe their quiet support is wisdom. The Jewish community is so very sensitive. I choose to embrace these folks and show gratitude for them. They do pray for and give financially to Messianic Jews, but their support is discretely given where it cannot be seen in public. We wish that this did not need to be so, but let us be grateful for the support we have and again for the general Christian support for Israel. I believe Christian Zionists, including those who do not support us at all, open Jewish hearts to the Gospel even if this is not their goal. We share the Gospel in the Land and sometimes without our mentioning Christians, Jewish friends have told us that they know that Evangelicals support Israel. This is amazing and has made our work easier.
Lastly, we can seek for the greater righteousness that I believe is required to move those who will currently have nothing to do with us to at least come to the place of quiet support. One Christian Zionist organization recently did make such a move. We can pray and exercise faith that God will change hearts so that most Christian Zionists will support Messianic Jews in the Land and in the Diaspora.
In addition, let us come to the place where we trust God for our finances. When our faith, giving and maturity are sufficient, God will more than adequately provide for our needs. God will give as much funding as we can wisely handle. Our provision is not in the hands of men, but in the hands of God who moves upon those who are to partner with us. Walking in forgiveness, healing and generosity are the keys to God’s provision.