A Resource Review: Jewish Christian Relations, A Step Forward

mendel-sukkahIn 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?

To see more about FFOZ’s HaYesod Program, click here.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Gentiles, Gospel, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism, Torah and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Resource Review: Jewish Christian Relations, A Step Forward

  1. foothillagrarian says:

    This is a great article. Thanks for the link to HaYesod. Good stuff indeed! I read a lot of Messianic blogs but have avoided interacting with them due to many of their being insistent that I as a gentile am bound by the Law in the same way. I am looking forward to digging into all of this new material :)

  2. peterygwendyta says:

    Hello Derek,

    Great Blog as always. I have noticed as you probably have that over the last 10 years there has been a great shift in the Church. Some may think that they haven’t gone far enough but there has been more of a shift towards hebraic roots of our faith, with men like Chuck Missler, Perry Stone etc. I believe that God is working on the hearts of the Church and turning it back to our roots. The one thing that does annoy me is the attacks by some on the church that we are either not moving fast enough or we should leave the Church altogether. While there are many problems in the Church it has been the vehicle that God has used for the last 2000 years despite our problems. I do pray that many in the Church will come back to the roots of their faith.

  3. ftloveblog70 says:

    What we need is The Reformation 2.0 (Hebraic Roots Version). The sooner, the better and the more relevant for Christianity. As Edith Schaeffer says, “Christianity Is Jewish”. There is no sense nor rationality in fighting against that statement.

  4. musicofrain says:

    I suspect that there is more to the denial of Jewish roots then just the church. Since I was a small child I have heard that the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving for a week. Over 200 years later it was named and changed to a single day in November. What I never heard was that they celebrated Sukkot in their New Jerusalem. I don’t think my teachers understood that or they might have said so. There is war for truth. My Y’shua makes so much sense in the light of Torah. Truth still sets free.

  5. sidefall says:

    Awesome stuff, Derek, and something that is very close to my heart. Only an hour ago I was looking at the “statement of faith” from a christian church and there was no mention whatsoever of the Jewish people. I thought how crazy can that be, but sadly it’s par for the course.

    I have two comments to make:

    Firstly, in recent years there has been a lot of high-quality work done by people like Mark Kinzer and Stuart Dauermann on what the pattern of Jewish faith in Yeshua should look like. However, far less attention has been given to what form gentile faith in Yeshua should take. Whilst I share the same concerns as you do regarding the different identities and callings of Jew and Gentile (which Yeshua did not come to destroy), I still find it hard to accept that many of the distinctives of Christianity as we presently know it are really what Hashem intended. So I welcome any serious contributions here and may well get the FFOZ resources.

    Secondly, I think one of the reasons why the church as a whole avoids anything Jewish is actually a very deep-rooted form of replacement theology. This regards Christianity as having replaced Judaism, and so the traditions of the church have replaced the traditions of the Jewish people. Plenty of people (including church leaders) who reject the classical supercessionist idea that the church has replaced Israel will still subscribe to these two more subtle concepts. Likewise the Jewish worldview (including attitudes to life, faith, G-d, prayer, and worship) is markedly different to the Christian one. So if Christians start thinking about their Jewish roots, when it gets beyond a quaint little extra once in a while, it seriously threatens many pillars of the establishment and tends to get quashed. The paradigm shift it requires is far too great for many to make, and often there are higher powers (ie church hierarchy) that will stop it.

    But, conversely, earlier this year I was at a church event organised by a Jewish missionary society. The service was led by a very senior leader in a large and long-established denomination, and he began the proceedings (on a Saturday) by saying “today is shabbat, the sabbath”. I almost fell off my seat at that point because I never thought I’d hear such a person say such a thing. Several years earlier this same society had basically fired one of their employees, a Jewish believer, because his approach to faith was too Jewish for them.

    I realise I haven’t answered your questions directly (which I may do later) but hope my contribution has been helpful.

  6. Mishkan David says:

    Derek,

    Outstanding post. Clearly, I affirm that all believers should take on Torah observance, simply because they are part of the “politea” (the political community, or commonwealth) of Israel. This is what Sha’ul emphasized in Ephesians. The coming Messianic Kingdom will be a Torah observant Kingdom, and all who serve the King will live according to the laws of the Kingdom.

    Whether one identifies as a Jew or a Gentile, I believe the Torah represents Hashem’s instructions to the entire planet.

    Sha’ul was right–we must not form our beliefs, or change our practices, on the basis of fear. Mature and complete love casts our such fear. Eventually, Jews and Gentiles will be able to get past the fear of “the Other”, and learn to form an integrated community that serves Adonai in the newness of life in Yeshua, the King of Israel.

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