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Messianic self-defense 101

Two Chabad ladies knocked on my door a few months ago, trying to make sure I was being a good Jewess. Our conversation developed and they understood that I, being a messianic Jewish believer, needed extra help. They arranged to bring someone who “knew more” to come talk to me.

I must admit from the outset, I was very nervous. This isn’t the first time I have been exposed to people attempting to convince me I’m deceived. The first time, I wasn’t walking by the Spirit, and I thought my knowledge and strong convictions would save me. After all, I grew up in a local congregation, I knew the Bible well, and I was saved. I was too proud. At that time, they planted so many seeds of doubt, that it took me over a decade to weed them all out. I didn’t want that to happen again, but I felt God prompting me to try again, but this time to do it His way.

At 3:30 p.m. one Thursday afternoon, there was a knock on the door. One of the Chabad ladies introduced Binyamin Kluger. Until two years ago, he was the head of the Jerusalem district of Yad L’Achim. They still send him out on “soul-saving missions.” I invited them in.

He was a surprisingly pleasant and gracious man. He wasn’t accusing or berating. He asked me polite questions about my children and told me about his. He smiled. He was genuinely caring and concerned for me as a Jew. He spoke to me for an hour and a half. I spoke very little, but took lots of notes. We exchanged emails, and then they left.

I would like to share with you what I’ve gleaned from that conversation. It is imperative to any Jewish believer in Yeshua to know the tactics that anti-missionaries use to plant seeds of doubt, and it is more than merely good arguments. If you are prepared, when you have the pleasure of meeting an anti-missionary, you will know what to expect and how you might tackle such a conversation. Below are some of the methods of operation I observed.

Initially, they will build a rapport of friendship and trust between you. How can you trust someone from Chabad or Yad L’Achim? They really are very nice people. They care about you and that is why they are making the effort.

Once they get into sharing their perspective on your situation, they might start by trying to break your trust in your own community of believers, especially your leaders. Your leaders have lied to you by hiding the many errors in the New Testament, by hiding the Christian agenda of converting Jews to Christianity, by deceiving you about the history of Messianic Judaism, etc. They will tell you that you are part of a cult, that there are only a few of you, and your numbers are dwindling: Eyal, Israel and Atzmon all used to be Messianic Jews, but they saw the light, and are now happily plugged into the Jewish Orthodox world. Binyamin argued that the Messianic leaders demonize Yad L’Achim, because that’s what every cult does to the ones trying to expose the truth to their followers.

Then they will flip that coin and show you that Messianic leaders you know and trust, actually trust them, too. Binyamin Kluger showed me pictures of himself with various Christian leaders, even with a leader in the Jerusalem Evangelical community, smiling and shaking hands. He asked me which congregation I go to, and when I answered, he immediately named the leader, although he admitted, “We are not on good terms.” He recovered with, “But I am a personal friend of this other Messianic leader you know. We drink coffee together.” He knew who all the leaders were. All this adds to his case: “Look, I know all your leaders and they see me as their friend, so you can trust me, too.”

They will attempt to disarm you in many ways. They will try to make it seem like they know more about your faith than you do: they know Messianic history you never heard (that’s their version of history anyway); they know church history; they even know the New Testament itself and scripture references by heart (possibly only the ones they argue from, but Binyamin was personally familiar with the text, having been raised in a Christian home before converting to Judaism as an adult).

You might think, “If they know all that and are still Orthodox Jews, they might just have a point!” I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to talk to an Orthodox Jew about your faith. If you have, you know that if you make a point they can’t answer, they will say, “Let me ask my rabbi.” We, as believers, need to start saying that. You do not have to give them answers to questions you’ve never heard without doing some research. Don’t get nervous. Don’t argue. They have their list of disarming questions memorized, but you are only hearing them for the first time. Write them down, look them up later. Don’t get knocked off your feet. That is what they want to happen. After they leave, don’t get stuck with one of their questions rolling around in your head. Find the answer and don’t allow the weed of doubt to take root in your heart.

They will tell you: “Messianic Judaism is really Christianity cloaked with Jewish facades. Your faith is turning you into a Christian more than a Jew!” Binyamin pulled out a copy of “Facts & Myths: About the Messianic Congregations in Israel” published by the Caspari Center and started quoting from it. He quoted various Messianic leaders stating which Christian denomination they were affiliated with to prove his point.

On this point, we as Jewish believers must sincerely examine our own practice. Are we being faithful to fulfill our obligations in the Torah as Jews? Have we thrown out the Torah with the “Old Covenant” so that we can live like non-Jews? Jesus himself said this in Matt. 5:17-20 “…until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen shall pass from the law.” Far from pushing you to give up your faith, this argument should rather push you to discover the foundations upon which Yeshua was adding and clarifying, so that you will be more stable and grounded in the practice of your faith as a Jew.

By the way, Binyamin even argued points that I had sent him answers to before we met. He said “I looked at what you sent me, and the questions there are not even questions I was thinking of bringing up!” Then he started bringing them up, one by one. This showed me that his main purpose was not to have a dialogue, but to destabilize me. For this reason, you should not engage them in debate. If you do, and successfully prove one point, they will just go on to the next point of argument on their memorized list: “Alma” in Isaiah doesn’t mean “Virgin” as the New Testament claims; there are conflicting genealogies in Matthew and Luke prove that the New Testament is unreliable; Christians have misinterpreted Old Testament prophecies; Isaiah 53 is not about the Messiah but about Israel…

Anti-missionaries believe they are saving Jewish souls, which should come as no surprise: Yeshua told us that even those who kill us will think they are offering a service to God. When you are ready, they will be willing to connect you into an Orthodox community, to set you up with a good rabbi and have someone a call away to help you with any questions you still have. They will make it very easy for you to become an Orthodox Jew.

I recommend that every Jewish believer does their research, and finds answers to the anti-missionary questions before they get asked. Why? A boxer wouldn’t start a match without taking an offensive or at least a defensive position. If he just stands there, he’d get knocked off his feet with one punch. There is an ongoing fight for our souls. Satan prowls around like a lion, seeking whom he may devour. We need to be ready for the fight!

Here are a couple great resources to help you get started:

Restorers of Zion, answers website: http://www.restorersofzion.org/RT_answers_antim.htm

Dr. Michael Brown, answers website: http://realmessiah.com/index.php/en/

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Tamar Burdekin lives with her family in Jerusalem. She works as a travel coordinator for groups visiting Israel.

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