I made a new friend this week and a conversation I had with her brought this topic to my mind. I’m thinking about explaining the rationale behind Messianic Judaism from several points of view. If you are Jewish and you attend a church, then maybe you’d like to know why Messianic Judaism should be an option for you. If you are a Christian leader and you sometimes have Jewish people in your church, maybe you would wonder why these Jewish people might go out from your church to join a Messianic synagogue. There are other points of view to consider as well, such as why should a Jewish person consider faith in Yeshua at all. That would be a topic for another post . . .
Why Messianic Judaism? Isn’t it a bad idea for Yeshua’s followers to be separating into groups? Shouldn’t we just all be together in one place that has a sort of neutral culture? Can’t Anglos, Hispanics, African-Americans, Jews, and so forth and so on, just all be in one place together?
Already, without even introducing Jewish issues, you can see from a cultural point of view that one-size-fits-all is a bad idea. I was reminded of this by a new friend who got some negative reactions by bringing some Hanukkah food (latkes with sour cream) to a Sunday School party at a Baptist church. One person said to the whole group, “I really don’t like Jewish food.” How interesting? Would anyone dare say something like that to a Hispanic or African-American about their ethnic fare?
The thing is, there is no “neutral” culture. Somebody is always being overlooked when you try to do a one-size-fits-all congregation. Here in America, many churches think white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant forms of worship from either the 19th century or, if you’re lucky, from a more recent century, is the be-all end-all of church culture. Well, I got news for you . . . it ain’t.
Give yourself a little cultural experiment. If you’re an Anglo, visit a Hispanic church or a black church sometime. I highly recommend the experience of a black Baptist church. You may decide your white-bread worship is boring after you visit there!
So, just from a cultural standpoint alone, Messianic Judaism makes as much sense as Koreans congregating together and enjoying kimchee on a given Sunday. But there is more to Messianic Judaism than culture.
God made a covenant with Israel. And despite the protestations of church history, God has not terminated that covenant. Check your Bible and you will find that God still expects Jewish families to circumcise their sons on the eighth day. Only a twisted hermeneutic can deny this ongoing covenant obligation. For those whose theology can only come from the pen of Paul, note that Paul had Timothy circumcised and be sure to put that in your theological bag of tricks.
All this is to say, that God’s will is for Jews to remain Jews. It is not right for secularism to pull a Jewish person away from covenantal faithfulness. Neither is it fitting for faith in a Jewish Messiah to force Jews to convert to Gentilism. Don’t laugh. I’m dead serious. Most churches fully expect that Jews will convert to Gentilism. A ham sandwich at a church supper is a test of faith for the new Jewish “convert,” and necessary to prove they have thrown off all the burdens of their pre-Christian Judaism.
Now, we’re beginning to get to the crux of the matter, which is why Messianic Judaism is so vital and necessary. God’s plan is for Jews, especially those who follow Yeshua as Messiah, to remain Jews until the end of this age and beyond. You might find in your Bible certain hints that Jews will still be part of God’s plan in the last days. Maybe you’ve read Revelation 7 and 14 before.
Now, in order to pass on Jewish identity from parents to children, from generation to generation, it is necessary for parents to actually HAVE a Jewish identity.
Many will not like what I am going to say next: you cannot maintain a Jewish identity in a church.
“You’re just wrong about that,” some of you will protest. I know some Jews at my church and they are doing just fine.
Are they? More importantly, will their children and grandchildren be Jews?
The assured answer of history is no. Jewish Christian children grow up and marry Christians (or secular non-Jews if they depart from the faith). They rarely marry Jews. Jewish Christian children find their identity in church and in the non-Jewish culture of the church. They think of themselves less as Jews with each passing year. Then your children have children and they take this assimilation even farther.
In other words, if you are a Jew and you worship in a church, your children are not likely to even identify as Jews. Your grandchildren are almost certain not to.
Go back 3,500 years to the days of Moses. The ancestors of any Jewish person you know have been passed from parents to children for those entire 3,500 years. God’s plan is that Jewish identity will continue being passed down until the end of the age (and beyond).
Do you, Jewish parent, want to be the one to break that chain of tradition and covenant faithfulness? Your family line endured wars, massacres, and hard times, only to come to an end in your comfortable generation. How tragic.
Do you, Christian leader, want to encourage a Jewish family line to come to an end? Do you find it fitting that faith in a Jewish Messiah should spell doom for God’s plan to continue Israel? Ask yourself, what would Jesus do?
Why Messianic Judaism? I’ll tell you. It is in the book of Acts. Peter and James represented the leadership of the circumcision wing of the early movement. Paul represented the uncircumcision wing. Acts 15 completely assumes the ongoing distinction of the two branches of the one body of Messiah. Messianic Judaism today is bringing back the circumcision part of Messiah’s body. We are doing the work of Peter and James. We respect and fully relate to the uncircumcision wing, the church, which is the work of Paul. Let’s allow the body of Messiah to have all its expressions.
Why Messianic Judaism? Because it is God’s will for Jews to be faithful to the covenant with Abraham, if nothing else, and I would add to the covenant from Sinai as well.