A Messianic Israeli kindergartener set off sparks recently when she declared before the other children in her class that “Yeshua is the Messiah and He will deliver us.” As reported by Kehila News Israel (KNI, kehilanews.com), citing an interview with Israel’s Channel 7, the mother of one of the girl’s classmates immediately complained to the school for allowing such “hypocritical” and “brainwashing” speech and, upon two rabbis’ recommendations, withdrew her child from the institution. The mother of the Messianic kindergartner, on the other hand, maintained that the whole episode had been blown out of proportion, and all three of her children continue to be welcomed by the school and other parents.
Actions Before Words?
While the story highlights the continued hostility and intolerance of some religious Jews toward Messianic Jews in Israel—and the difficulty that Messianics have at times integrating into Israeli society—what is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this episode is the Messianic mother’s point of view. According to KNI, she said,
“We must stand with full confidence in our faith, but I am of the opinion—and this is how I also explain to my children—that it is necessary to maintain restraint with our words and show the love of God that is in us through our behavior and actions before anything else.”
It is an interesting perspective, but is this true? Do the Scriptures teach us that when it comes to sharing the Messiah—especially with the Jewish people—we should demonstrate our love for God exclusively at first through our behavior, while showing restraint and putting second the words that declare our faith?
Shining the Light
In her interview, the Messianic mother went on to support her position by paraphrasing Matthew 5:14-16, which says, “You are the light of the world—a city set upon a mountain is not able to be hidden; nor do people light a lamp and put it under the measuring basket, but on the lampstand—and it shines to all those in the house. In this way, let your light shine in front of men, so that they may see your good actions, and may glorify your Father who is in the Heavens” (MJLT). So the Master’s words certainly confirm the idea that visible, good works are one way in which a believer can let his light shine before others; and this, in turn, gives glory to the Father.
Another passage relates to this. In John 13:35, Yeshua says, “In this will all know that you are My disciples: if you will have love one to another” (MJLT). Again, love is demonstrative, observable by outsiders, able to be naturally perceived. There is no doubt that this concept not only exists in Scripture, but is part of our mandate as believers—to show love and the light of Messiah through our actions.
But where is the idea that demonstration should supersede words? This concept begins to fall apart especially when we consider 1 Peter 2:12, which says, “[have] your behavior among the Goyim [Gentiles] right—so that in that which they speak against you as evil-doers (from seeing good actions), they may glorify God in the Day of Inspection” (MJLT). Here, Peter informs us that even when our “behavior… [is] right,” as believers in Yeshua, we will be spoken against as evildoers. So, despite the fact that, eventually, the nay-sayers will glorify God for our good deeds, the way we behave in Messiah does not guarantee that people will see God’s love. On the contrary, the likelihood is that no matter how we behave, we will be seen as evil—as in the case of the Messianic kindergartner.
So what do the Scriptures actually say? That we should “maintain restraint with our words and show the love of God that is in us through our behavior and actions before anything else”? No. Rather, the Scriptures say we are to both act and speak, as encapsulated by Paul in Titus 2:7-8: “[R]egarding all things, [show] yourself to be a pattern of good actions: incorruptibility in the teaching, seriousness, sound words, beyond reproach, so that he who is against us may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say about us” (MJLT).
In Season and Out
In fact, not only are our words of equal importance with our actions, but Paul also makes it clear that there is no wrong time to declare the truth of Messiah with our words: “I fully testify to you before God and Messiah Yeshua (who is about to judge all those living and dead) and His Appearing and His Reign: proclaim the Word; be standing ready in season and out of season; refute, rebuke, and exhort in all patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2, MJLT). How much more does this apply to Messianic Jews living among Israelis in the Land?
We need to be careful when it comes to sharing the Messiah that we do not give in to fear and make up an excuse—even one expediently derived from Scripture—for not opening our mouths to speak the truth. Each situation is unique, requiring wisdom and the guidance of the Spirit, so we must not box ourselves in and formulaically relegate the spoken word to a position behind good behavior—which may be overlooked as easily as it may be misconstrued.
So, is an Israeli kindergarten class an appropriate place to declare that Yeshua is the Messiah? According to the Scriptures, why not?!
“But if you should also suffer because of righteousness, happy are you!—and be not afraid of their fear, nor be troubled, but set apart the Messiah in your hearts as Master. And always be ready for making a verbal defense to everyone who is asking you for an account regarding the hope that is in you, but with humility and fear; having a good conscience, so that in that in which they speak against you, they may be ashamed—those who are defaming your good behavior in Messiah” (1 Peter 3:14-16, MJLT).