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As a Jewish man who accepts Yeshua (Jesus) as my Messiah, I have been told by nearly every other Jewish person I know who doesn’t accept him that if I “believe in Jesus” I am no longer Jewish because believing in Jesus is only for Christians.
Yet, I doubt they even know what “believe in Jesus” means. For that matter, I’m not sure if I know what it means!
Does it mean acceptance that he is the Messiah? Many would say yes, but then what about the Muslims? They believe in Jesus, in that he existed, but he is a Prophet to them and nothing more. This is also the view of many Jewish people.
Does it mean I am a Christian? Many would say yes, but then again, what about all the demons in hell? They absolutely believe in Jesus and more than that- they have seen him, in person! But they’re not what anyone would call “Christian.”
Does it mean that I acknowledge only that he existed as a historical figure? Yes, for many people, including many Jews (especially those that are theologically educated.)
So where does this leave us? Pretty much the same place we started- it can mean many things, with the only constant being that Jesus existed…and there are many who will refute that.
Generally, the phrase “believe in Jesus” is understood to not just mean that he existed, but that the person who “believes” has converted to Christianity. This is not true, though, because of the other ways we can believe in Jesus. I believe in Jesus: I believe he is the Messiah God promised to send and yet I have not converted to anything and I vehemently deny being a Christian- I am a Jew. In fact, I am more “Jewish” now than when I was before, living as a non-practicing Reform Jew. Yet, whenever I meet another Jewish person who is not “Messianic”, they call me a Christian. And they aren’t nice about it.
It is because of this misunderstanding of the phrase that I do not use it. I will say I accept Jesus (I always say Yeshua, but to keep it constant in this posting I will use the name “Jesus”) as my Messiah, the one God promised in the Tanakh to send to the Jewish people.
Going forward, I recommend that we stop saying we “believe in Jesus” simply because it sends the wrong message, especially to Jews. We should say instead that we accept Jesus as the Messiah God promised to send. And, if you are talking to a Jewish person, NEVER use the name “Jesus” but instead use “Yeshua”. And also make sure you say “Yeshua, the Messiah God promised to the Jewish people”- the only way you can make any progress with a Jewish person when talking about Jesus is to make sure you maintain the “Jewishness” of Yeshua the Messiah.
I believe that when we begin to concentrate more on who we are talking to instead of just repeating what we have always been taught to say, as Shaul (Paul) did in all his letters to the Messianic congregations he began, then we can begin to break down the wall of preconceived ideas that have formed over centuries as a result of misunderstanding, prejudice, and fear.
We need to address the Good News to people in a way they will be open to hearing it. We should rethink what Shaul meant in Romans 1:16 when he said the Gospel is to the Jew first, then the Gentile: maybe what he really meant wasn’t so much a chronological order of presentation, but that if the Gospel being spread isn’t acceptable to a Jew, it isn’t any good for a Gentile, either.
Remember this the next time God presents to you an opportunity to spread the Good News.