On one end of the scale, we are all aware of the growing number of believers (in our case – especially from Arab origin) who want to be accepted and acknowledged by their own people so much that they have adjusted their theology accordingly. Some even coming to an extreme position, defending Muslim terrorists and debunking Israel’s right to defend itself, and all in the name of Jesus.
But on the other end of the scale, we are aware of a growing number of Jewish believers who want to be accepted and acknowledged by their own people so much that they too have compromised the gospel. They came to a place where they have decided to embrace the authority of the rabbis and their religious traditions, with the excuse of “being relevant” in the way that they share the gospel with other Jewish people.
We however, strongly disagree. As our new citizenship is now in heaven, we should no longer be looking for flattery of men, or as Paul once put it: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
As believers in Yeshua, our call is to be a witness and a light in a dark reality, not to try to assimilate into it.
Here is a good, yet saddening example. In his book “Post-missionary Messianic Judaism”, American Messianic Jewish believer, Mark Kinzer, asks what we should make of the past 2,000 years of Jewish traditions. He concludes that Israel’s “no” to Yeshua (Jesus) is actually a “hidden participation in the obedience of Israel’s Messiah” (p. 225). According to Kinzer, although Israel has rejected Yeshua, He “continues to live among them—though in a hidden, obscure fashion” (p. 233). What Kinzer is really saying is that Jewish tradition (that includes the rejection of the Messiah) is God’s wish for the Jewish people at this time: “a divinely sanctioned religious tradition appointed for the purpose of preserving the Jewish people” (p. 258).
While I have never met or spoken with Mark Kinzer, I have no doubt that he absolutely loves our people! The problem is that he loves the Jewish people so much, that his love for them is in competition with the gospel.
“Anyone who loves their father or mother [or traditions or heritage] more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37)
Judaism’s rejection of us as Jewish believers is based on Judaism’s rejection of Moses, the prophets, and ultimately the Messiah Himself. Dead traditions cannot give life nor change our heart for the better, only faith in Yeshua as Messiah can! The outcome of religious traditions2 that I’ve encountered so far is mainly characterized by; pride, legalism, self-justification and walls of separation. And, worst of all – compromising the message of the Gospel!
Let’s be honest here, wearing a piece of rounded fabric on your head will not make you any more Jewish, nor will it get you points with God. Faith in Yeshua, however, will! That is why we find an overwhelming emphasis in the New Testament for FAITH in Messiah, rather than following Judaism’s man-made religious traditions. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit…It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh [human traditions] is no help at all” (John 3:6; 6:63). If we are going to worship and serve God in the Spirit, we cannot be reconciled to, or please God through, man-made traditions. For “God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
This might be new for some, but these are actually matters that Paul himself had to deal with: “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish2, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3)
There is no doubt a great and saddening irony in the fact that what Paul 2,000 years ago described as “Rubbish”, some today are trying to uplift as life, truth and a way to please God.
My prayer for our Messianic movement is that we won’t be found guilty in forsaking and abandoning our first love. (Revelation 2:4)
1. A reader may easily take my argument farther than I intend. I am Jewish; I worship on Saturday; I celebrate the feasts; I enjoy kabbalat Shabbat; I recite the Shema; and I even got married with a yamakah on my head (see 1st Corinthians 9:20). But non of these traditions I keep because I think I please God or earn points with Him. Traditions are no more than “salt and pepper” for my main dish – faith in Yeshua.
2. The word subtly translated into “Rubbish” in the NIV, is the Greek word skubala (σκύβαλα), which actually means “excrement”.
This article originally appeared on ONE FOR ISRAEL, December 20, 2015.