I just sent the following letter to the editor of the Forward, in response to Friday’s op-ed on the recent Catholic statement on relations with the Jewish people.
In “What New Vatican Memo Really Means for Jews for Jesus — and Us,” J.J. Goldberg corrects the notion that the Vatican has announced that “Catholics should not try to convert Jews.” He notes that the memo rejects “specific institutional mission work” aimed at Jews, but advocates witnessing faith in Jesus to all people, including Jews. Still, Goldberg writes, “If this thing spreads, it could put [Jewish missions] out of business.”
But the whole discussion of conversion here is skewed. There are Jews who honor Jesus as Messiah, the Jewish Messiah, and do so as Jews. We don’t “convert” and we’re not in the conversion business. Just as the Post-WWII Catholic Church renounced centuries of error about the Jewish people without losing its core identity, so we are freeing ourselves from centuries of Jewish denial about Jesus as Messiah without losing our Jewish identity.
The traditional mindset of both church and synagogue has a hard time accommodating this new paradigm. The Catholic statement speaks of the “highly complex theological question of how Christian belief in the universal salvific significance of Jesus Christ can be combined in a coherent way with the equally clear statement of faith in the never-revoked covenant of God with Israel.” For the Catholics, it’s a mystery that God will resolve in his time.
Messianic Jews agree that there is a deep mystery in God’s abiding relationship with our people, but we take a different tack on reconciling the “never-revoked” Jewish covenant and the salvation that comes only through Jesus. We believe that these two great truths of Scripture are not incompatible, but deeply harmonious, and we’re seeking to reconcile them not just in theory, but within our own lives and practice.