If you are new to the discussion of non-Jews who are attracted to things like Passover and Sabbath and dietary law, welcome. You should know that there are two main types of people in this situation. Some are in churches of more traditional or evangelical background and some are in Messianic Jewish groups and congregations.
Many Christians in churches are drawn at one time or another to at least want to understand something like the Sabbath or the Passover origin of communion (or eucharist). Some are drawn even more and want to know the biblical calendar and feasts. This can be a confusing road. Many books are filled with misinformation, like the horrid “biblical diet” books. Apart from faulty logic (“if a food is mentioned in the Bible, it is wholesome, so figs are better than apples”), these books are frequently marketing tools for products and systems (“buy our essential oils based on some verses in Ezekiel 47 which prove our products superior”). And they do not understand the laws they claim to teach you about. I think, for example, of the many people convinced that Christians should give up pork because beef is healthier (not!). If these authors are teachers, they should research Jewish tradition and find out with a minimum of effort that the dietary law has nothing to do with health.
And there are many non-Jews in Messianic Judaism. This is something that has led to arguments and hurt in the past (and present). The paradigms are changing (rightly so) and some people feel left behind (not necessary).
In this series I want to start by affirming something: there is, no doubt, a divine purpose in the drawing of so many from the nations to the Torah and traditions of Israel. Now, let’s get started considering some of the issues . . .
To Begin: Resources for Christians Interested in Torah and Jewish Community
I want to highlight the work of two organizations. One is working on new material and has little to offer yet (but will be a valuable association in the near future) and the other has much material already available to help you grow.
The first is the Union of Messianic Believers (UMB). The UMB has been around for a long time but was recently re-energized by Rabbi John Fischer and now by Bruce Stokes and Rabbi Joshua Brumbach. The UMB is a place for Christians to connect to the Jewish and Messianic Jewish world. You can find it at umjc.org/umb-mainmenu-105
The second is First Fruits of Zion. This is a thriving community and publishing house with material to introduce you to Torah (the HaYesod Program, newly remade and with video shot on location in Israel) and enable you to study it (Torah Club, start with Volume 1). Find them at ffoz.org.
Lessons Learned from Past Mistakes
You should know that many have walked the path before you. And many have found some unhelpful paths and can warn you not to try them.
The major problem many Torah-seeking gentiles have run into is very similar to the problem of shallowness in much evangelical Christianity: individualism run amok.
EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN SHALLOWNESS = “The gospel is about me and my salvation.” Read some N.T. Wright, like Justification or Surprised by Hope or After You Believe.
TORAH-SEEKING GENTILE SHALLOWNESS = “The Torah is about me and my status with God.” Read some medieval commentators and Jewish theologians, would you? Learn the depth.
A BETTER PATH = Learn slowly and carefully. Think before jumping into things. Consider that God has a plan for the whole world, through Israel, to redeem. How does Torah fit into that? What is your place in God’s plan?
The Path of Respect
Historically, those who have walked this path and who are currently healthy and balanced in theology and lifestyle have found the need to be respectful to the Jewish community, to Jewish communal traditions, and Jewish identity as something that matters to God.
In other words, some people may have begun on a “Torah is about me and my status with God” approach and discovered Jewish interpretation over time. And studying Torah brought them to a realization of the meaning of God’s covenant with Abraham.
And these have rejected certain sad tendencies that have developed among some gentile Torah-seekers: the tendency to deny the significance of the Jewish community and Jewish identity. If Torah is “mine” then who cares that God gave Torah to a specific people with a specific plan in mind?
And, as is the case with a shallow and anemic evangelical Christianity, which is dying on the vine, shallow Torah-seeking has led to bad fruit.
People are angry. They are dealing with an entitlement paradigm and not a blessing paradigm. They are saying things like, “How dare you?” They are not saying things like, “How can I help?”
Mutual Blessing is God’s Plan
You will find that God divides the world into two groups: Israel and the nations. This division is not about superior and inferior. Many Bible texts deal with this fact, including Deuteronomy 7 and Romans 2 and 4.
God’s division of the world is about a plan of mutual blessing. God blesses Israel. God blesses all the families of the earth through Israel. God blesses those who bless Israel. The pattern of mutual blessing spreads and continues into other relationships so that God’s plan is blessing passed from one to another, rinse and repeat. Mutual blessing ends the curse.
Read R. Kendall Soulen’s The God of Israel and Christian Theology for a powerful explanation.
Not Jewish and Ready to Connect to Torah Through the People of Israel
I will suggest in this series that this is where you want to be.
Your interest may be at various levels. It is fine to be at any one of these levels. The Torah and the apostles teach that you need not opt for a more involved Torah-observance. You need not live like a Jew to be kosher. God says this over and over again. I won’t defend it here, but I have in numerous articles here at Messianic Jewish Musings. One is listed on the left sidebar, “Acts 15.”
(1) You may be a Christian wanting to know how your faith originated and to experience some of the customs as a way of learning.
(2) You may be a Christian who wants to get more involved, perhaps attend Jewish community events, advocate for the nation of Israel, etc.
(3) You may feel drawn to the Jewish community and want to walk alongside in a Messianic Jewish synagogue.
(4) You may be a long-time member of a Messianic group, perhaps a Jewish one or perhaps one that is less Jewish.
(5) You may be married to a Jewish person, have Jewish kids, and you are neck-deep in this.
Here is what my series on this topic will be about: growing in Torah practice without a vital connection to and service of the people of Israel is counter to the gospel; but growing in Torah practice as a part of God’s plan to heal the world through Israel is a way to serve the gospel.
I will have to elaborate on many of these areas in future posts in this series. This is a general overview of the topic. Here are some questions for discussion that may stimulate you to comment:
a) Have you experienced unwise examples of mixing Torah-practice with Christian faith (such as the “biblical diet” books)? What has been your experience? (Be charitable, don’t gossip about specific people please).
b) Do you think I am overstating the need for a connection to the people of Israel as part of growing on Torah-practice? If so, why?
c) Are you Jewish, Messianic or not? Can you see God’s power at work in so many gentiles being drawn to Torah? What is God up to?
d) Are you non-Jewish? What draws you to Torah? What are some reasons and some blessings you have discovered?