In the midst of all the Sukkot festivities, I found myself driving with family for several hours yesterday. I had just received a new resource in the mail. I didn’t know what the material would be like, how it would be presented, and how I might use it.
We listened to two hour-long CD’s during the drive. About 10 minutes into the first CD, I glanced to the left at my wife in the driver’s seat. She returned my look, saying, “Are you as excited about this as I am?”
We both agreed, we know a lot of people we’d love to hear the message we were listening to on these CD’s.
Imagine a resource which could expose Christians to the Jewish gospel. Imagine a set of DVD’s filmed in Israel that helps Christians understand the gospel is so much more than a promise of glorious afterlife. Imagine Christians hearing a persuasive and Biblically sound message that faith in Jesus radiates out from Israel and remains centered in Israel.
That, it turns out, is what HaYesod is all about, the new resource from First Fruits of Zion (ffoz.org).
“Suppose you learned,” the writers of HaYesod ask, “that your parents are not your biological parents. You discovered that you had been adopted as a child, but your biological parents were actually royalty from a foreign country. Not only that, but they had left you a rich inheritance. . . You would probably want to find out as much as you could about your biological parents and the land from which you came. You would want to learn about your people. Your new-found identity would influence the way you thought about yourself.”
The reaction I get from too large a segment of Christians (but thankfully not from all) is, “So what?” So what if Christians received a Jewish faith from a Jewish Messiah (actually, most in this category would deny that it is a Jewish faith, though not that Messiah is Jewish). How does that affect my life now?
That’s a great question.
HaYesod is one answer. This series, about which I could hardly be more excited about promoting as the best tool available for Jewish-Christian relations I am aware of, gives one answer. The writers of First Fruits of Zion believe that Christians adopting Biblical and Jewish customs while respecting the difference between Israel and the nations is the pattern that should have been happening all along.
This is an interesting question: what should have been the response, historically, of Christianity to the Jewish origins of faith in Jesus?
I live and move now in the Messianic Jewish world. I am among Jews who are alarmed by the uncritical adoption by non-Jews of Torah customs. I understand the concern of the Messianic Jewish community that Jewish identity will be rendered nought if non-Jews fail to make a distinction but simply become de facto Jews by culture and practice.
I also understand very well that both the Torah and the New Testament teach that non-Jews need not live like Jews to relate to God.
But neither can I doubt that the anti-Semitic avoidance of Jewish expression of faith in church history is a travesty. Wanting to avoid adopting Jewish practices, church fathers looked instead to Roman customs and later to those of other cultures, such as Germanic and Celtic rites, as models for Christian behavior.
I am not one to denigrate Christianity as pagan. I believe in the creeds of Christian faith. But what does Jesus have to do with Rome? Syncretistic practices filled the void that could have been filled by an engagement withy Jewish life and culture, the life and culture Jesus himself lived.
Is the world richer because Yom Kippur means nothing to practically all Christians? Is the church more pure because it does not keep the Passover about which Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me”?
What would it look like if groups of Christians respectfully returned to Jewish roots? What if modern Christians became like early congregations, such as Corinth where Passover was evidently practiced (see chaoter 5)?
I don’t believe for a second that the fears expressed by some Messianic Jews or the fears expressed by Christians historically would need to be realized. Christians keeping holidays out of a balanced theology would not seek to spiritually replace Israel. Christians keeping Sabbath joyfully and not to earn a place in Messiah’s kingdom would not pervert the gospel.
What do you think? What would happen if not only the Gentiles who find their place within Messianic Judaism, but also Christian groups and churches, started observing Torah customs while respecting what God is doing in and through Israel?
And what do you think: is it tenable for Christianity to continue to ignore the fact that the gospel is Jewish, centered in Israel past, present, and future?