Are we “Christians” or “Messianic Jews” (and does it matter?) Part 2

I never visited any Hebrew Roots/Messianic congregation when I lived in the US, but in the years since I moved to Israel I’ve met many people who were here visiting from such congregations and I’ve also had the opportunity to review a fair amount of literature published by these groups.

What I’ve seen and heard has led me to some broad conclusions about the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movement in North America and the UK, as well as other Western countries. These are, again, BROAD conclusions, to which there are some outstanding exceptions.

For starters, it is composed, in large part, of Gentiles who have spent most of their lives in Protestant (and occasionally Catholic or even Eastern Orthodox) churches but at some point they began to feel that the church they’d been attending for so long wasn’t working for them anymore. Also, or maybe in addition, they have in one way or another begun to feel an affinity for Israel and/or Judaism.

This often leads to an identity crisis, which ends in their adopting some form of Messianic Judaism whose primary objective is to prove to itself and everyone else that it’s NOT Christian!

The easiest way to do this is by attacking “Christians” for everything from meeting on Sunday instead of Saturday to celebrating Christmas and Easter and eating non-kosher food and on and on and on.

Other things which are supposed to be part of a Believers life, like “sharing the Gospel” and “showing love, grace, compassion, etc.” are often forgotten in this headlong rush to embrace an “authentic, Torah Observant” lifestyle and the accompanying need to make sure everyone knows that One is doing so.

Another, much smaller, group within the Hebrew Roots/Messianic community in North America and the UK are people who grew up in a religiously observant Jewish home, came to accept the Gospel, but who feel the need to “prove” to themselves and/or their heartbroken family and friends that they’re “still Jewish”. So they wear traditional Jewish clothes, intentionally use traditional Jewish terms and words in their everyday language, write the name of the Creator of Heavens and Earth as “G-d” and otherwise go to great lengths to “prove” that they’re NOT Christians!

If you forget everything else you read here, remember this one thing. If you spend more time talking about how you’re “not Christian” than you do talking about how the Lord died to redeem you from your sins, then you’re doing it wrong.

Here in Israel, the Messianic Community has many of our own unique problems but, (thank God) we are not, for the most part, burdened by a need to prove to ourselves or anyone else that we’re “still Jewish” much less that we’re “NOT CHRISTIANS!!!!”

Living in Israel, paying taxes here, serving and/or sending our children to serve in the military and otherwise participating in the life of this country provides all the evidence we need to “prove” something to ourselves or anyone else that we’re part of the Jewish People.

To use a crude colloquialism, we’ve managed to get over ourselves.

This process has been helped along by the fact that most of our congregations include Jewish Israeli families but also many non-Jews including long-term tourists, students from around the world studying in Israeli universities, etc. We couldn’t, even if we thought it was necessary and/or beneficial, tell those people that they’re not welcome in our congregations unless they start wearing a kippa and eating kosher.

In addition, we’re a small community and we do not have the luxury of telling our brothers and sisters in the faith who are not Jewish (I’m speaking primarily of Arab churches) that we won’t have anything to do with them because of the Christmas tree they have in their church lobby in December or the ham and cheese sandwiches they pack in the lunchbox their children take to school.

We are a small community of Believers living in a sea of people whose feelings towards the New Testament range from scornful indifference to high octane hostility, and we have to cooperate with each other or we won’t get anywhere.

My dear brothers and sisters in the Hebrew Roots/Messianic community in Western countries who might be reading this, I urge you to go back and read that last sentence again and think real hard about whether or not it’s relevant to your own situation. Then think about whether or not it might be time to stop attacking the Church over its imperfections and start instead trying to reach out to it so you can help each other the way the Jewish and Gentile Believers in Israel help each other.

Be patient. Be kind. Be merciful. Be gentle.

It will help you to remember that others are having to be patient, kind, merciful and gentle with you as well.

On a similar subject, over the years we’ve begun to get a trickle of Messianic Jewish families emigrating to Israel from Western countries, and this usually ends up in one of two ways.

In one case, these families quickly manage to get over themselves and they adopt the prevailing attitude here. They stop making such a big issue about not being Christians. They start fellowshipping with non-Jewish Believers instead of endlessly telling them how they must stop painting eggs at Easter and wearing a cross on a chain around their necks, etc.

In short, they start seeing what God is doing in this country and decide to get in line with the work of His Kingdom instead of trying so hard to force God to get in line with their own plans.

Or, if they can’t manage to do that, most of the time they either go and join an Orthodox synagogue and we never see them again, or else they pack up and go back to wherever they came from, complaining that “it’s impossible to live an authentically Messianic Jewish life in Israel because all the congregations there are so Goyish.”

Now, which of these results do you think is most pleasing to our Lord?

Brothers and sisters, please hear me.

The days are evil and the time is short.

If you identify with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, no matter where you live or what label you choose to give yourself, you need to understand that you are in the minority.

You also need to understand that you’ve got a tremendous amount of VERY powerful and determined opposition from the prevailing culture, and anyone else who also identifies with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit needs you and you need them.

What neither you or them needs is endless arguments and disputes over trees and cookies and egg nog and all that other petty, silly nonsense.

There are VERY serious theological issues that can’t be ignored, and not everyone who calls themselves a Christian is following the Lord. But most of what the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movement in North America and the UK is obsessed with doesn’t even come close to that level of seriousness.

If you’re unsure about which is which, stop watching youtube videos and reading blogs like this one and read the Bible instead. All these questions, disputes, arguments, etc. that are dividing the Body of Messiah were all encountered by the Body in the First Century and the solutions given by the Holy Spirit are all recorded in that Book.

Every false teaching that the Enemy ever threw at the Body of Messiah had already been seen by the end of the First Century, and the Letters Paul, Peter and the other Apostles sent to the congregations in Galatia, Corinth, etc. addressed all these issues. These letters are clear as day. They contain no ambiguity whatsoever. If anyone tries to tell you that they do, that they’re “difficult to understand properly” or whatever, run away from that person as fast as you can, and warn others not to listen to them either.

The Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, including the New Testament, to be written so anyone could understand it. The principles of how we are to live as followers of the Lord are spelled out with perfect clarity.

We don’t need to endlessly re-adjudicate all this stuff.

What we need is to show love, compassion, support and fidelity to each other and to the Lord and Savior we all worship and serve. He is coming back to this earth very soon, and whether you call yourself a “Christian” or a “Messianic Jew” or whatever, the ONLY thing that’s going to matter is whether you were with Him, or against Him, whether you were helping His Plans or hindering them, whether you were part of the problem, or part of the solution.

May God give us all the grace, wisdom, humility and clarity to choose the right course.