The Bible calls believers to be salt and light to a world that hasn’t yet met Jesus. Many times, the salt and light in our life opens others’ hearts to the gospel; but sometimes we must wait a long time before we see fruit from our witness. My story is one of waiting and hoping.
I grew up in a northern suburb of Tel Aviv. In our home, we followed all the Jewish traditions and kept the holidays, but these observances had little relevance to our daily lives. My parents taught me that the Bible was full of fairy tales and that men created God, not vice versa.
Growing up brought many challenges. My parents fought often, and I was bullied in middle school. So I was relieved when my dad’s job relocated us to the US right before I entered high school. It felt like a fresh start. After high school, I attended Stony Brook University as a math major. And I met Dinah while working in the tutoring center.
Dinah came in for help with a math problem during my shift. She asked about my accent, and I told her I was Israeli. That excited her because she was Jewish, too. As we continued talking, she told me she believed in Yeshua. I had no idea who Yeshua was. Being fluent in Hebrew, I knew, of course, that the word Yeshua means “salvation”—but who was Yeshua? Dinah told me that Yeshua was Jesus’s Hebrew name. I had never heard this before. I was astounded!
Dinah and I met again the next week for lunch, and that’s when she opened the Hebrew Scriptures and showed me prophecies that spoke about the Messiah. Then she turned to the New Testament and explained that Jesus had fulfilled those prophecies. By the end of our lunch, I knew that Jesus is the promised Messiah. It was like discovering the solution to a lifelong math problem. It all made perfect sense, and I believed. But a wave of fear quickly followed my joy: What will my parents say?
When I told them I believed in Jesus, they didn’t understand. Perhaps they were in denial or regarded faith in Jesus as something a person would outgrow. Whatever the case, they initially downplayed my faith. But I was hungry for the Word, and through discipleship, I was growing in my faith. When I was baptized, my parents realized the seriousness of my faith.
They decided to do whatever they could to bring me back. First, they sent me to an anti-missionary rabbi who tried to convince me that Jesus is not the promised Messiah. That didn’t work. Then they sent me to a psychologist and psychiatrist, but that didn’t work, either. An expert in cults arrived next, since they assumed I had been brainwashed. They brought me into an intervention with the entire family. At that point, I knew I couldn’t practice my faith in their household, so I decided to leave home. My dad had never been violent, but when I was packing up to leave, he lost control and beat me. I escaped that night with no doubt that I was officially disowned.
A few years later, Dinah and I married and then joined the ministry of Jews for Jesus. We moved to Israel as missionaries. For many years, my parents and I had no relationship. But grandchildren exert an irresistible attraction, and when our kids were born, my parents came back to us. Our relationship remains complicated, and it’s an understatement to say they don’t support what I do and who I stand for. My being disowned has been a source of deep grief and pain for Dinah and me. We feel grateful for the opportunity, by God’s grace, to have a relationship with my family and to shine the light of Jesus in their lives. We long for the day that they come to know Messiah Yeshua.
Matthew 5:13–14 says that those who have been made whole through salvation in the Messiah are the “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” These verses reveal two aspects of our Christian life. First, when we receive Jesus as the promised Messiah, our lives naturally become a refreshing testimony to what the world needs so badly—Jesus himself. And second, since there is a world to influence, there are people who need saving.
Christians often ponder the idea of “fulfilled and still waiting.” As believers, our salvation is fulfilled; we enjoy relationship with God here and now. But many people have yet to experience this freedom and still wait to hear and respond to the gospel. Other people—like my parents—have heard, and we wait for them to respond in faith. In either situation, we must “let our light shine” (Matt 5:16). Let us pray without ceasing for those who have yet to accept God’s gracious invitation, while at the same time rejoicing in what God has already fulfilled.