In my book, You Bring the Bagels; I’ll Bring the Gospel: Sharing the Messiah with Your Jewish Neighbor, I used a standard communication model to organize all the material into four sections: You, The Gentile Christian; Your Message, the “Jewish” Gospel; Your Audience (Your Jewish neighbor) and The Feedback: Barriers to Belief.
In the first section, I made the point that to effectively communicate a message, the messenger must have credibility, and that one of the key aspects of credibility is “identification.” In order to reach his own people, Paul explained, “With the Jews I put myself in the position of the Jews in order to win Jews” (I Cor 9:20).
He identified with his people, not in a false way, but in a sincere way. Clearly, when he was in Rome, he did (some) of what the Romans do, getting into philosophical dialogue. But with his own people, since he felt at home, he emphasized his Jewishness.
In order to share with your Jewish neighbor, you too need to identify with the person to have credibility. That will make you a more effective communicator. As one gentile member of my congregation here in Maryland said to me recently: “We need to make Emmanuel Messianic Jewish Congregation a place where Jewish people feel comfortable.” He got it right. Messianic congregations need to create “Jewish space” for visitors, space with which they can identify.
Christians, too, need to identify with Jewish people, especially since the One they follow is a Jew and came “only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Even Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, told the Roman believers “to provoke the Jewish people (the natural branches) to jealousy for their own Messiah (Romans 11:11).
This is the Gentile Great Commission and it’s not being fulfilled very well. Christians need to identify with Jewish people to have more credibility, thus winning them to Messiah. But how can Christians do this?
One way is by participating in Jewish community activities. When there are movies on Jewish themes or talks by Israeli speakers, attend and let your Jewish neighbor know you are sincerely interested in them and the Jewish people.
You might even suggest that you and your Jewish neighbor go together and discuss what you heard. Discussion (even arguing) is a very Jewish thing to do. You will be identifying and also learning about matters near to the heart of God. However, from my experience, there are several problems non-Jews have with identification, which affects their credibility, and their witness.