Bo Peep Evangelism

Some evangelical Christians, while admitting that Jesus is the only way to be saved, nevertheless do not believe that we should proclaim the gospel to the Jewish people. They arrive at this position as a result of some rather questionable reasoning.
First, they point to the long history of anti-Semitism that has often been associated with nominal Christianity. Secondly, they observe that when we share the gospel with Jewish people, the Jewish community becomes very agitated. This is often viewed as an exacerbation of the pain of the Jewish people; especially as leaders of the Jewish community voice their "offence" at all efforts of Christians to "target", or in any way to "proselytize" them. These leaders often speak of evangelism as "spiritual genocide", thus linking our proclamation of the life-giving Good News of Messiah to one of the most traumatic and painful periods of Jewish history – the Nazi Holocaust. Finally, they remind us of Paul’s assurance in Romans 11:26 that, at the Second Coming, "all Israel will be saved". They then conclude that the Jewish people have suffered more than enough and that if God wants the Jewish people to be saved, He will do it in His own way and in His own time. In the meantime, we should simply "bless" the Jewish people and be kind to them.

However, granting that conversion is the work of God does not absolve the believer of his responsibility to proclaim the gospel. Furthermore, the salvation of the people of Israel who are alive at the Second Coming is of little benefit to the thousands who are dying every day without atonement for sin. This position is similar to that faced by William Carey in the late 1700s. In essence, they were saying, "If God wants the heathen to be saved, He will do it without our help".

This is what I call the "Little Bo Peep View" of Jewish evangelism:

Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
And can’t tell where to find them.
Leave them alone,
And they’ll come home,
Wagging their tails behind them.

It is a naïve and irresponsible optimism. "Just wait. Leave them alone. Don’t worry, they’ll come home eventually." But listen to the next verse of the nursery rhyme:

Little Bo Peep fell fast asleep,
And dreamt she heard them bleating;
But when she awoke,
He found it a joke,
For still they all were fleeting.

How grateful we should be that we do not have Little Bo Peep as our shepherd! No, the Shepherd of Israel is the Good Shepherd, who is willing to brave the dangers of darkness and desert to find the one that has gone astray.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (Isaiah 52:7)

Jim Sibley
This article first appeared in the Spring 2000 issue

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