The following is a guest post written by Melissa Zelniker-Presser. She has a unique perspective on being Jewish and a Christian which makes this post a “must read.”. – Anthony Baker
A Mom’s Perspective
My son has ADHD. He may very well be on the spectrum for autism. That has caused a lot of people not to understand him, to judge him or to treat him with scorn, malice and contempt. In the four years that I have ridden the roller coaster of a parent who has a child that is not “the norm,” it is the misunderstanding and opinions of others that are often times worse than the disorder itself. I have heard everything from:
- You must have done something wrong in your pregnancy
- You have too many kids so he probably doesn’t get enough attention
- You work so you don’t spend enough time with him
- Don’t expect him to succeed
This is just some of the commentary and ignorance that I deal with on a daily basis. And it has made me see his world in a whole different light.
Recently a friend of ours from church who has an autistic son gave me a book entitled, “Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew,” by Ellen Notbohm. I haven’t finished the book yet because I’ve stopped to pause and reflect on every page. The book is written from the perspective of the autistic child which is wholly unique. And although of course it can’t capture everything that child may be thinking or feeling, it is a valiant attempt at getting people to understand how that child feels.
I wasn’t even a couple of pages into the book when I thought about a recent series of questions I was asked about being a Jewish believer in Christ. These questions can oftentimes feel like science experiments, making me feel different and not so good about myself. Gentile brethren are oftentimes misguided and uninformed, asserting their theological opinions on who I am and what my journey to Christ may or may not look like. If I didn’t hold back, I’d want to shout from the rooftops, I am just like you! I am a Christian too!!! Why must you see me any different?
Reading the beginning of the book, the quick overview of the ten things that every child with autism wishes you knew, immediately sparked an idea in me to express to people the 10 things Jewish believers in Christ want you to know. Jewish believers are often polite and not forthcoming about their struggles, and I am hoping that by revealing some of my innermost thoughts, gentile brethren will understand where I am coming from as Jewish follower of Christ.
Ten Things … From a Jewish Perspective
1. Please don’t expect that I know everything about the Jewish religion- Most Jews don’t.
We as Jews are oftentimes more cultural than we are religious. Being Jewish is part of our identity just as if someone was Hispanic. But this does not mean that we speak Hebrew, know the Old Testament or can recite an entire Passover Seder. There’s nothing worse than being called on or questioned about our Judaism in front of other believers.
2. Please don’t tell me I am no longer Jewish- Jewish people have a heritage and identity that resides deep within their souls. We bleed Jewish.
When we as Jewish women are pregnant, we are tested for Jewish specific diseases based on our ancestral heritage. Jesus was JEWISH. Jesus did not stop being Jewish when he was crucified and died, so neither do I. And please do not cite your authority for believing I am no longer Jewish as Galatians 3:28, you are misguided. Respect my heritage and who I am. Yes we are one body in Christ but I cannot change WHO I am. Being Jewish is part of who God made me and part of my identity.
3. Please don’t single me out amongst our brothers and sisters- There is nothing worse than having your well-meaning Christian brother or sister introduce you as a Jewish believer.
If it comes up in conversation fine. But please don’t shout across the room and draw attention to me. I want to be just like you, a Christian. I am saved and redeemed by the blood of the lamb just like you.
4. Don’t expect that I know other Jewish believers- This happens all the time, I expect because we are somewhat of an anomaly.
Hey do you know Sally Jones, she is also a Jewish believer. No, no I don’t know Sally Jones. Why would I know Sally Jones? We are no longer living in the desert in close communion with one another. There are millions of us. Don’t expect me to know Sally.
5. Don’t put us down because we choose to keep our customs and traditions alive; this is not legalism!- Jewish custom and tradition is inherent for us.
We are rooted in the foods and holidays of our Jewish culture, and guess what, so was Jesus! People want to make Jesus a gentile, but he is not. He celebrated all of the Jewish festivals and grew up Jewish. Hello, the last supper was a Passover Seder! For many of us, these traditions bring us closer to Jesus and help our children understand who they are in Christ.
6. No we have not all been to Israel- I am American just like so many of you.
I have not been to Israel. Although I hope and pray that God will grant me that trip one day, I’ve never been as I am sure most of you haven’t either.
7. Stop telling me that my Jewish relatives will never make it to heaven unless they accept Jesus- You don’t know that and you don’t know whether someone has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Jewish people are shunned once they become Christians and many may not outwardly profess Christ, but you never know what’s in someone’s heart.
8. Be sensitive to the fact that I am new to Christmas and Easter- Three years ago was our first Christmas and Easter.
It was hard for us to figure out how to celebrate and what to do. We have no traditions or family meals since we are Jewish. Do the Christian thing-invite us to yours, especially when you know we are new believers. Help us to develop our own traditions to pass on to our own children.
9. Love me for who I am and stop trying to make me a Gentile- I will never be a Gentile.
Love me for me, just as you would love any believer for who they are in Christ. Respect where I am in my walk with Christ, and encourage me in that as a Jew, not a Gentile.
10. You as a Gentile will never know what it’s like to be Jewish- No amount of bible school will teach you that.
Don’t try to be like me or try to use your biblical knowledge to show me that. I’ll respect you more for the person that God made you, not the knowledge you have.
It is hard to be a Jewish believer in Christ. Friends and family will be sure to leave you. You are ostracized from your Jewish community and then many times inadvertently ostracized from your Christian one. We don’t fit in neatly, which is where you come in … to help us acclimate, to respect who we are, and to love us as Jewish believers in the Lord Jesus.