In his second letter to the believers in Corinth, Rabbi Paul wrote, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. As a deeply flawed human being, I find it reassuring that mercy and comfort are among God’s attributes. But there’s a world of difference between His comforting those who grieve or are suffering, and our desire to be comfortable. Should it be our life’s goal to always be comfortable, or to do the will of God?
But walking in God’s will means that at times we will find ourselves in unfamiliar, and sometimes hostile territory – and that is uncomfortable. For some of us the past few days have been rather uncomfortable. Rabbi Loren in particular has been the focus of speculation and mockery; but by extension all of us have been mocked in social media and in the mainstream press. Of course, any Jewish person who’s been a follower of Jesus for any length of time knows what that feels like.
Let me offer the following seven passages for your consideration this morning, as a reminder and encouragement whenever you find yourself the object of rejection and ridicule because of your loyalty to Messiah Yeshua.
I. Matthew 5:10-12
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Have you been ridiculed by family, or at your workplace, or in your neighborhood anytime recently for your faith in Yeshua? We should expect a certain amount of rejection and ridicule if we’re going to openly identify with Messiah Yeshua. If you’ve been scorned for that, you should be glad!
- It means you are a “known quantity”. After all, if nobody around you knows that you believe in Yeshua, then something is seriously wrong.
- You are in good company! You are walking the well-worn path of the prophets and the righteous men and women of history who were persecuted for doing the right thing, and for having the courage of their convictions.
- According to the promise of Yeshua there is great reward for you in Heaven!
II. Isaiah 51:7
“Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, A people in whose heart is My law; Do not fear the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings…”
We should not be surprised if we are mocked and despised when we openly identify with Yeshua; when we are outspoken about Him. If I understand the Scriptures correctly, a certain measure of rejection and scorn is to be expected for Yeshua’s sake! The righteous should not be surprised when the unrighteous hurl verbal or even physical abuse. Light may pierce the darkness, but the darkness is not going away without a fight.
III. Proverbs 29:25
The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.
This is what is called antithetic parallelism. The second line has roughly the same cadence as the first, and reiterates the truth by stating its opposite. In this case, the fear of man is contrasted with trust in the Lord. The results are also contrasted. The first brings trouble, the second brings triumph. I am convinced that at the root of so many of the problems plaguing the Church, generally, and the Messianic Community in particular, is yirat adam – the fear of man. Doctrinal and theological compromises are, in my opinion, symptomatic of a much deeper problem – that we worry about having the respect and approval of our fellow man more than holding fast to what is good and right and true in the sight of God.
The biblical writer tells us that it is a snare – a subtle trap; the kind that is hidden and carelessly you are caught in it. As a solution, I propose that we simply get in the habit of being outspoken about our faith, and through practice, learn not to take ridicule and rejection to heart. A few years ago I gave a message entitled, A True Disciple Has Thick Skin about this very thing.
The bottom line is that we worry too much about what other people think of us, and end up doing and saying things we shouldn’t, or remaining passive and silent when we should have acted and spoken up – all in order to have ‘legitimacy’ and recognition in the eyes of unbelievers. But at what price? What is the cost to your conscience when you betray your convictions because you’re afraid this other person won’t like you anymore? Left unchecked, the fear of man will lead inevitably to breaking faith with the Lord.
Remember what happened when Aaron had yirat adam – a golden calf – disaster!
Remember what happened when Peter had yirat adam – he denied Yeshua 3 times!
Sadly, even old friends of mine and Rabbi Loren’s who once willingly endured ridicule for Messiah Yeshua, in more recent years have back-pedaled, abandoned the Bible’s clear teaching about salvation, written articles and books that deny the reality of Hell and of the need for Jew and Gentile alike to consciously embrace Yeshua. Some of these people are so determined to have legitimacy in the eyes of the Jewish community, that they now refuse membership in their congregations to Gentiles, for fear of being perceived as less-than-Jewishly-authentic.
They have abandoned the struggle. It’s sometimes called battle-fatigue. But there is another name for it, as we’ll see in Galatians, chapter two.
IV. Galatians 2:11-14
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men (ostensibly) from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
This is a perfect example of the fear of man in action. It leads to hypocrisy. I am convinced that Galatians chapter two is emblematic of a syndrome that has pervaded large segments of the Messianic Jewish Movement, and really of the entire Body of Christ today.
I say that these men came ostensibly from James, because they are identified later in the passage as “the party of the circumcision”. These men were advocating mandatory circumcision and Torah observance for Gentiles, and this is something which James, who led the First Jerusalem Council, disagreed with. In fact, James, under the direct leading of the Holy Spirit, declared only four things be required of Gentile believers; but circumcision and Torah observance were not among them. Peter disassociated himself from his Gentile brothers because he was afraid of what the ‘party of the circumcision’ would think of him. It was a cowardly and hypocritical thing for him to do.
Did you know that there are many messianic leaders today who disavow any association with Jews for Jesus? Some of them even criticize and publicly speak ill of the work of Jews for Jesus. Ironically, most of these messianic congregations wouldn’t even exist had it not been for the direct evangelism Jews for Jesus has done for 45 years. My response to these leaders is this: If you don’t want to ‘get your hands dirty’ (get your feelings hurt) doing direct evangelism, at least have the decency to not badmouth those who are doing the harder work!
Some in our movement have gone out of their way to disavow any relationship with the larger Body of Christ – the Church. They are quick to point out all the Church’s flaws and accuse their own brothers and sisters in the Lord of being ‘pagan’. This disassociation is borne out of the same thing: yirat adam – they are worried more about how the public perceives them than they are about the truth.
Disavowal of this sort is cowardly, and it’s also hypocritical. Did you know that, statistically, the vast majority of Jewish believers in Yeshua today came to know the Lord through the loving and patient witness of Gentile believers. So, is this then how we thank them – by belittling the Church and keeping them at arm’s length? And for what – to win the approval of the mainstream Jewish community? But that is exactly what is happening, and it follows precisely the actions of Peter in Antioch – actions which earned him a public rebuke enshrined in Scripture!
Furthermore, this strategy doesn’t work! The Jewish community, by and large, will continue to reject Jews who follow Yeshua until the day He returns. Get used to it! We are ridiculed and marginalized, but we must learn to weather it with grace and patience, knowing that we’re not alone, and knowing that we’re not exactly blazing any new trails here. There’s always been a faithful remnant, and that remnant has always been maligned by the disdainful majority.
This is what I want to say to those messianic leaders who disavow Jews For Jesus and who disassociate from your Gentile brothers and sisters in the Lord:
- It will get you nowhere other than in disfavor with God, who loves them, and to whom you will have to answer for hypocrisy.
- Even if, theoretically, Jewish people were to come to know Yeshua via this dubious method, what kind of believers would you be birthing? Do those old prejudices really have any place in Messiah’s Holy Community? Shouldn’t they be jettisoned like old baggage in the New Birth? But if you, the leaders, perpetuate prejudices and stereotypes, those you disciple will never mature.
Yeshua said, I have other sheep which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd (John 10:16). In the Kingdom of Heaven, Jews and Gentiles will forever be praising Adonai shoulder to shoulder, breaking bread together, worshiping together. Get used to it!
Perhaps some of the leaders really are just battle-fatigued. Maybe they just want a little respect after all these years of enduring mockery for Yeshua. Who hasn’t felt that way at times? But we need to remember that it isn’t about us, and as patiently as possible, with the help of the Holy Spirit, learn to endure the insults, knowing that the only One whose opinion really matters already loves and approves of us.
V. Isaiah 53:1
Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
I’m convinced we’ll be able to gracefully and patiently endure rejection and ridicule if we’ll remember who we are and who we’re not. Think about this: to whom was the birth of Messiah Yeshua announced by the angel? To the great scholars of the day? No. To the aristocracy? No. To the well-connected – the “movers and shakers” of Israeli society? No. Messiah Yeshua’s birth, the second most important event in the history of the world was announced to shepherds – those who were least likely to be believed in that culture at that time.
You and I are just as likely not to be believed. We need to avoid the temptation to strive for credibility with an unbelieving world. I am not at all suggesting that scholarship isn’t valuable. I am not suggesting we not do our best to be historically, biblically, socially and politically literate. But God isn’t impressed with all our credentials and that’s not the way He chooses to win people to Yeshua. God can do more with one humble person than with all the billionaires, leaders, or scholars in the world. It is, after all, the message, not the messenger, that matters most. Consider what Rabbi Paul said to the believers in Corinth – who were not exactly the cream of the crop of ancient Roman society.
VI. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (my rendering of the Greek)
For consider your calling, brothers, that by human standards not many of you were wise, not many mighty, not many of nobility; but God has chosen the foolish ones of the world so that He might put the wise to shame, and God has chosen the weak ones of the world so that He might put the mighty to shame, and the (ostensibly) insignificant (ones) of the world and those regarded with contempt God has chosen; the “nothings” that He might render the “somethings” moot; that no human being should boast in the sight of God.
The bad news is: you’re not “all that”. The good news is: you can relax and be yourself and not have to worry about how much credibility you have or who you’re going to impress. God didn’t make any mistake in choosing you and saving you, but it wasn’t because He was so impressed with your credentials. Don’t worry about what the world thinks of you. Be like “Lt. Columbo” – do you remember that TV show, where the detective seems absent-minded and is always fumbling around, and everyone thinks he’s not very bright? And no sooner does the bad guy let his guard down and Columbo’s got him! My point is, let them underestimate you!
When you travel by car with a laptop computer, if you’re smart, you’ll put it on the floor of the car, not up on the seat. Why? Because a thing can’t fall when it’s already at the lowest place. So let us humble ourselves, and esteem others as more important than ourselves. It’s difficult to ridicule a person who already doesn’t take themselves very seriously.
VII. Hebrews 13:11-14
For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
In conclusion, let’s remember these few things we’ve heard, so that we’ll be able to gracefully endure rejection and ridicule:
- If you are ridiculed for Jesus’ sake, you will be honored in Heaven
- Don’t be surprised or disheartened when you are attacked this way
- Choose yirat Adonai (fear of the Lord) over yirat adam (fear of man)
- Be content to be regarded as weak, foolish or insignificant. God can use us!
- If you are hated, disenfranchised know that He was too – we’re with Him!
Let us willingly and openly identify with Yeshua. He was rejected by the community. He suffered “outside the camp”. If we are to be faithful to Him, it will necessitate our going “outside the camp” – outside the bounds of respectability; outside the good graces of the larger community.
To gracefully endure rejection and ridicule for Yeshua’s sake, you’ll need to keep your eyes on Him; and keep your focus on “the city which is to come”. If you’ll do that, you’ll be far less likely to take those insults personally, far more likely to forgive, love and pray for your enemies, and far more likely to rejoice, because you’ll know deep down that “your reward in Heaven is great.”