Jews and Gentiles in Christ

Under the title, the Unity of the Church we have discussed the unity of the body of Christ and decried the tendency to divide into ethno-centric congregations in which the consolidating factor that distinguishes their congregational life is language, culture, tradition, a pet doctrine or anything but God as he is known in Messiah. God alone, as he is known in Christ, should be the focus of our individual and congregational lives, nothing else.

The now-common call to "return to the Jewish roots of the Christian Faith" is a falsity. The Christian Faith has no Jewish roots. Its roots are biblical. Judaism is not only unbiblical in many aspects, but most of what now passes for Judaism did not even exist until many decades after the death and resurrection of Messiah. The Passover Seder, for example, as we know it, was unkown then, and it is a mistake to assume that Jesus celebrated the Passover as it is celebrated by Jewry today. It is also false to attribute presumed divinely-intended meanings into rabbinic practice. The rabbis wae not messengers of God; they are the spiritual descendents of the Pharisees, who rejected the Messiah and led the people of Israel in that rejection.

We Jews in Christ need to get our priorities right: Jesus comes before Jewishness. We love our people, love being what God has made us and love those distinctions which equip us to serve others, but being Jewish doesn't make us better than anyone else. What is most important is that we lead godly lives, maintain an active spiritual walk, grow in our knowledge and fear of God, understand the Bible, increasingly live for God and labor for a morality that it as real as it is determined.

People say "Blood is thicker than … ". They're right, and the blood of Christ is thicker than our own. Much as we love our people and are committed to their welfare, we must learn to cherish and cultivate unity with fellow believers in Messiah, recognizing that Jesus' blood united us with those to whom we would not otherwise be united, and that such a unity places a real responsibility on us.

We need to place Jesus before our national ties. This necessarily implies that, when faced with a choice between relations with fellow Jews or fellow Christians, we prefer the latter. It means that, in church, we emphasize Messiah and are willing to make sacrifices so as to maintain and cultivate relations with fellow believers. It means that we take an avid interest in the history of the church and recognize that this history is also ours – warts and all!

It means that we seek Jewish fellowship with fellow believers or with Jewish unbelievers outside the context of church life and if there arise any conflict between the interests of the church and those related to our Jewishness, the church will always come first. We must not allow ourselves to nurse the sense of hurt that has developed over years of purportedly Christian attitudes to our people. After all, God has forgiven us so much, how dare we not forgive others?

Non-Jewish believers also need to engage in certain considerations. Paul warned his readers not to boast in relation to Israel. The church has not always heeded that exhortation and, in the course of history has, often unintentionally and otherwise, incorporated anti-Jewish sentiment into the fabric of its theology, preaching and practice.

Gentile believers often speak in terms that contrast a continued Jewish national identity with faithfulness to Christ – as if Gentiles who come to Messiah do not maintain their own national identities alongside (and subject to) their Christian faith. Sometimes non-Jewish believers have burdened Jewish believers with expectations or with adoration, neither of which can  stand the test of scripture.

Don't decry our love of our people or our active involvement in their welfare, and please don't turn us into an idiosyncratic artifact. Evaluate each of us in light of our gifts and weaknesses, proven experience and training. Use us to the extent that we can truly be useful, and teach us where we are ignorant - or arrogant. Don't promote us because we're Jewish. If we have proven gifts, use us. If not, teach us. But treat us as you would treat all others.

On the other hand, don't doubt us because we have not turned our backs to our people. Faith in Jesus does not require us to become Gentiles any more than it requires you to become Jewish. Allow us to be what God has made us, and don't feel threatened by our doing so. If we maintain national traditions in our homes, we're not necessarily being legalistic, nor are we necessatilu Judaizing, or questioning the unity of the church. We just want to be what God in his sovereign purposes has called us to be.

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