I am a great admirer of Habad, and of the Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, zts”l. You can expect me to speak on these pages about him and about them from time to time.
One of the secrets of Habad’s dynamism has been its theological underpinnings whereby all Jews are regarded as having a special soul which is just waiting to be awakened to the world of Torah and mitzvot. In such a model, Jews are not regarded as a resistant class which must be won to a new perspective, but more as a sleeping army waiting to be roused. This perspective makes outreach to be an optimistic endeavor.
Fortunately, the realm of Yeshua faith offers a similarly positive and motivational construct which underlies natural branches outreach. To my knowledge no one follows this construct, although my colleagues and I in Interfaithfulness will be doing so.
I call this optimistic mindset “Natural Branches Outreach.” This is an optimistic approach to Jewish outreach, seeing Jewish people as naturally inclined to be joined to God’s redemptive purposes in Messiah Yeshua, including a return to Torah and mitzvot, which I have explained at great length on these pages is clearly part of God’s agenda for the Jewish people. Most succinctly, this juxtaposition of Yeshua faith and a Jewish return to Torah is expressed in Ezekiel 37:24:
“My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd (This is of course the Messiah). They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes (and this is a Jewish return to Torah).”
I am sorry to say that the general mindset in which most Jewish believers in Yeshua have been indoctrinated sees the Jewish public in negative terms as indifferent, resistant, difficult, or “gospel hardened.” These assumptions destroy motivation and engender adversarial approaches. They are foundationally pessimistic, and frankly, I want nothing to do with such a mindset. Do you? And is there an alternative? Yes there is! Natural Branches Outreach.
Natural Braches Outreach always remembers that Jewish people naturally belong in the olive tree of God’s redemptive purpose, so that even when broken off in unbelief, they are naturally disposed to be rejoined to that olive tree when the right conditions are fulfilled.
Paul discusses the natural branches metaphor in Romans 11:17-24, where he speaks of the Jewish people as natural branches, even when for a time broken off from the olive tree of God’s redemptive purposes:
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. (Romans 11:17-24 ESV)
In accordance with Paul’s discussion in Romans 11, Jewish branches, even when broken off of the olive tree, remain natural branches such that the most natural place for them to be is rejoined to the olive tree.
It is unnatural for Jews to not be living Jewish lives, in rewarding relationship with God, and fullness of Yeshua faith. Therefore our goal is to bring them back where they have always belonged.
Our task is to give Jewish people delicious tastes of that redemptive reality from which they are currently alienated or of which they are unaware. Our task is to gently and appropriately help Jews to wake up to what they have been missing, confident that they will experience a sense of having “come home” when they deeply experience the reality and vibrancy of Jewish life, relationship with God, and Yeshua faith, in the power and Presence of the Ruach HaKodesh.
The outreach practitioner is not so much a sales person as a health professional assisting people in waking up from a dormant state, even from a coma, or if you wish, raising the dead with the delegated power that Messiah gives to us. Therefore, our approaches must be careful, individualized, gentle and patient.
Most people will not buy into this construct. It goes against the prevailing wisdom. But no one would have guessed that the Lubavitcher Rebbe could take a traumatized remnant of the Shoah and create a movement which is now the most dynamic movement in the Jewish world. For him to do so went against the prevailing wisdom.
Are you ready to go against the prevailing wisdom with me? If so, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me about yourself.
You might even add a comment or two here on this blog.