Does Jesus Matter?

Why Native American religions, when scholars acknowledge that Native American tribes do not traditionally distinguish between religion and the rest of life?

-William T. Cavanaugh
Chapter 1: The Anatomy of the Myth”
The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:8-9 (ESV)

Disclaimer: This is a long “meditation.” I’m sorry. I couldn’t make my point and keep it under 2600 words. Just letting you know.

I’ve been reading Cavanaugh’s The Myth of Religious Violence, albeit somewhat slowly, but I came to a complete stop when I read the quote from his book I placed at the top of this blog post. Cavanaugh is trying to refute those people who believe that religion is inherently more violent and prone to causing wars than secular systems of finance or government. One of his main criticisms against this viewpoint is the lack of definition for what is a “religion” which, on the surface may seem easily defined, but in the world of scholarly analysis, is pretty difficult to pin down.

But look at what he says about Native American religions. “Native American tribes do not traditionally distinguish between religion and the rest of life.” But shouldn’t it be that way for all other religions as well?

If you’re a Christian, you may be nodding your head and agreeing that your faith is your life, but I think for a great many of us, we tend to compartmentalize what we do into “religious” and “secular” activities. When you go to church, it’s “religious.” When you pay your taxes or take out the garbage, it’s “secular.” A lot of Christians say that their faith “isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” If that’s so, then are there times in your day-to-day life when your relationship with Jesus doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter? If you are married, are there times when your marriage or your spouse doesn’t matter or doesn’t factor into your decision-making, particularly when those decisions don’t have a direct connection to your being married?

Who we are in Christ should permeate every single part of our lives, everything we do, every thought we have. It was Paul who wrote (see 2 Corinthians 10:5) that we must “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” If our Christianity is supposed to function down to the level of our very thoughts, shouldn’t it be ingrained into everything else we are as well?

I’ve been participating in a number of online discussions, including one at Gene Shlomovich’s blog Daily Minyan, regarding the relevance of the Mosaic covenant between God and the Israelites as applied to non-Jewish Christians today. The principle question is, do Christians become obligated to the Law of Moses when we first confess faith in Christ?

I know the vast majority of Christians (and probably Jews) will immediately answer, “No.” But then, most Christians believe that the Law or Torah of Moses was wholly replaced by the grace of Jesus Christ when our Master died on the cross. I disagree with this “replacement theology” (and those of you who’ve been reading my blog for long know this quite well) and believe that the Jewish people continue to be bound to the covenant they made with God at Sinai.

But Christian brothers and sisters, you and I weren’t at Sinai. Our covenant connection to God isn’t dependant on that event, even though there were non-Israelites, the so-called “mixed multitude” of people groups, who also stood at the mountain and agreed to obey God in all things.

However, there are some folks out there who believe that the non-Israelites at Sinai sets a precedent that not only allows, but actually requires all Christians to be fully compliant (or as much as we can be living outside Israel, and without a Temple, Priesthood, and Sanhedrin) to the 613 commandments that the Jews must perform as a condition of their covenant with God through Moses.

But that raises one big, giant red flag for me. If all any Gentile ever had to do to have a covenant relationship with God was to perform the mitzvot as a Jew would, then why do we need Jesus in order to enter into relationship with God and be saved?

This issue is actually more complicated than I’m making it here, but the details would result in an impossibly long blog post. Also, I’m not historian, linguist, or Bible scholar, so I lack the educational “chops” to fully explore all of the niggling little details this topic brings up. On the other hand, any “ordinary person” should be able to discuss their faith in a reasonably intelligent manner without having to possess multiple advanced degrees. If we can’t, then we must relegate ourselves to the status of “sheep” and be at the mercy of anyone who comes up with a theology based on some understanding of what certain Hebrew and Greek words might mean in English.

(I have to say here that I am not denigrating scholarship and education. Far from it. I possess one graduate and two undergraduate university degrees, so I value education and learning very highly. However, it is important to search out and study the findings of legitimate scholars in religious studies. You won’t always find them involved in online religious debates in the blogosphere.)

Let’s get down to it. If Torah obedience is the primary key to entering into covenant relationship with God, then why don’t we all just convert to Judaism? More to the point, why did God bother to send Jesus Christ to be born, live, teach, suffer, die, be resurrected, and ascend to Heaven? That’s a lot of trouble and certainly it wasn’t any fun for Jesus. All God had to do was send a prophet to go to the Gentiles (someone like Paul perhaps) and say, “Convert to Judaism and you will be saved.”

But that’s not what Paul said. And that’s not what Jesus said. I don’t believe Jesus, Paul, Peter, or anyone else said that the Jews must give up Judaism and become Christians, since even Jesus, Paul, and Peter remained Jews, sacrificed at the Temple, and kept kosher throughout their entire lives. I do believe though, that something had to be done for the rest of the people in the world who were worshiping mute idols of stone, wood, and metal.

But if the Gentile pagans didn’t convert to Judaism, what did they become when they abandoned polytheism and began to exclusively worship the God of Israel through faith in the Jewish Messiah?

For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. –Acts 11:26 (ESV)

The term “Christians” could more or less be thought of as “Messianics” as well, or people who are disciples of the Jewish Messiah. But it doesn’t translate into “Jews” and it doesn’t translate into “Israelites” or any other such thing. What the believers in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah were called was directly connected to his Messianic identity and what we can think of as the “Messianic” covenant; the covenant that makes it specifically possible for non-Jews/non-Israelites to come into relationship with God “without surrendering their ethnic, racial, or national identity as Gentiles.”

If we were expected to surrender our “Gentileness” and covert to Judaism or in some manner or fashion, become obligated to the full mitzvot of Torah, even while retaining our Gentile identity, why would Paul say this?

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. –Galatians 5:2-3 (ESV)

He said something even more dramatic on the same subject:

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. –Galatians 2:21 (ESV)

Galatians by D.T. LancasterGranted, Paul’s letter to the Galatians is amazingly difficult to understand (see D. Thomas Lancaster’s book The Holy Epistle to the Galatians for an excellent analysis of this letter) but it’s hard to get around the idea that Paul was severely “discouraging” the non-Jewish members of the churches in Galatia from converting to Judaism (being circumcised) because doing so would place them under the full weight of the Torah mitzvot. Also, if the Gentiles thought they had to convert to Judaism and take on board the entire Torah as an obligation in order to be justified, it would make Christ’s bloody, humiliating, agonizing death on the cross completely meaningless.

So I just don’t see how Jesus is requiring every non-Jewish person who comes to him as a disciple to be obligated to the Torah of Moses.

Having said all that, is the Torah such a bad thing? No, absolutely not. Paul knew that even Jews were justified by faith and not by works of the law. (Galatians 2:15-16)

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. –Galatians 3:21

Paul didn’t abolish the law and neither did Jesus (Matthew 5:17). In fact, Jesus said that “until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (v. 18) As far as I can tell, Heaven and Earth are still with us and not everything the Messiah was supposed to accomplish has happened yet. So the law continues to exist.

I can confidently say Jewish people remain obligated to the mitzvot, both in Second Temple times and today. This, in my opinion, includes the Jews who have come to faith in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Jesus never got rid of the Mosaic covenant or replaced it with a newer covenant. I do believe the newer “Messianic” or “Davidic” covenant ratifies the older ones for the Jews so the Messianic promises are realized for them in Christ.

What about the Torah for the rest of us? Modern (non-Messianic) Jews believe that the rest of the people of the earth are obligated to what is called the Seven Laws of Noah and that the covenant of God made with Noah (see Genesis 9) puts all of us in relation with God as long as we obey our Noahide obligations.

But that doesn’t take anything we know from the Gospels or Epistles into account. The Messiah’s mission was not just to restore Israel nationally and spiritually, but to bring the rest of the world into relationship with God. That isn’t dependant on Noah or on Moses but only on Christ.

I’ve heard it said that the Messianic covenant with the Gentiles “travels back in time” as it were, so that the non-Jews at Sinai were brought into relationship with God through Christ and then obligated to the Torah mitzvot as a consequence, but to employ Occam’s razor, when two hypotheses are in competition, the one that makes the fewest assumptions is more likely to be true. The “time traveling” covenant hypothesis creates a lot of hoops to jump through just to support a theory.

Moses didn’t tell the Israelites that they had to obey God in all things and believe in the coming Messiah in order for God to be their God. This is what happened right before God gave the Torah at Sinai:

So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. –Exodus 19:7-8 (ESV)

Because of faith in God, the Israelites unreservedly agreed to obey everything God told them to do, including everything He hadn’t told them yet. Their agreement is the Mosaic covenant and the Torah mitzvot are the conditions applied to each party subject to that agreement (the Israelites and God). Belief in the future Messiah isn’t specifically mentioned so at that point in time (I know, mysticism could probably “explain” this but I’m trying to stick to the mechanics of the text), Israelites and the Gentile “mixed multitude,”  because of their faith, agreed to obey God and in order to fulfill their agreement, they obeyed all the conditions of the Torah.

But the mixed multitude who became “alien sojourners” among native-born Israelites have disappeared from history. We can argue back and forth that their lives in relation with God did somehow involve the Messiah and absolutely required mitzvot obedience that was identical to the Israelites, but what of the Gentiles who wanted to attach themselves to Israel during and after the earthly ministry of Jesus. Were there “sojourners” in those days or were they “God-fearers” like Cornelius the Roman Centurion? (see Acts 10) What was their status and was Torah obedience required?

While I think we can make a pretty good argument that even Jewish believers in Christ retain their obligation to God relative to Sinai, that seems to be unique to the descendents of Jacob. I do believe that the very first Gentile Christians probably worshipped God in a way that looked much more “Jewish” than we do today, but that’s just a guess. We only have “hints” of Gentile observance that looks Jewish in scripture, (see the aforementioned Cornelius in Acts 10 for example) but no “smoking gun” pointing to Paul teaching Gentiles to say the Shema, wear tzitzit, or lay tefillin. We never actually see an illustration of the Gentile Christians behaving exactly like the Jewish believers in all of the mitzvot.

the-joy-of-torahI don’t see any harm in Christians performing many or even most of the mitzvot. After all. The commandments have a great deal to do with feeding the hungry, treating even the neighbor you don’t like with respect and dignity, and loving God. In fact, if you actually read all 613 commandments, for those that we can actually perform outside of Israel, and without a Temple in Jerusalem, a Priesthood, a “Biblical” court system, I can’t find much that would violate a Christian’s faith.

I think it is mandatory to feed the hungry, to find shelter for the homeless, to comfort the widow, to make sure the orphan is taken care of. If you’re a Christian and you aren’t seeking social justice and performing acts of mercy and kindness, then there’s something wrong with your faith and your lifestyle. Recently, I’ve encouraged Christians to seek God and repent of sins during the month of Elul. I think it’s perfectly fine for Christians to participate in the High Holidays, light candles on Chanukah, eat the Passover meal with their Jewish brothers, count the Omer, celebrate Shavuot/Pentecost, and build a Sukkah.

Certainly Jesus did all these things in accordance to the halachah that was normative for the Jews of the late Second Temple period. Perhaps (though there’s no way to know for sure) even Cornelius the Roman built a sukkah. It don’t think it’s an outrageous idea.

I do think, believe, and endorse with all my heart, mind, and spirit, that Jesus, or Yeshua as he’s called in Hebrew, absolutely, positively must be the center of our faith and covenant connection with God. Without Christ and the specifics of the Davidic covenant that allows us to be in relation to God and to call Jesus Lord and King, we among the nations are lost. We have nothing. Neither Jew nor Gentile has ever been justified by obedience to Torah commandments. As Paul said, we’re justified by faith.

Jesus does matter. He matters to anyone who wants a relationship with God.

Make Christ your everything. He is not irrelevant. He is indispensible. He is the key. He is the vine and we are his branches.

26 thoughts on “Does Jesus Matter?”

  1. I think he does! Great post James.

    The Gospels in many cases are relegated to nothing more than proof-texts to prove that Yeshua did not do away with the Torah. This loss of perspective is truly astounding, as Yeshua is the Gentile believer’s only connection with Israel and with the Torah. For many people the centrality of Yeshua has been the biggest and worst possible casualty in the fight to reclaim their roots. The cost has been too high. It would have been better for them never to have joined the battle.

  2. Thanks, Boaz. I’ve noticed, particularly lately, on various “Messianic” blogs that the focus on the Torah and how Gentiles have the “right” to be obligated to Torah observance based on the ancient Gerim has completely overshadowed the work of the Messiah. If we remove him from the center of our faith, we’ll start wandering off into “foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless…” (Titus 3:9) Or is that where much of the “Messianic blogosphere” already resides?

    We’ve gotten lost and walked off the field. We need to get back into the game. Messiah is waiting for us.

  3. Is this where our conversation left off, I realize you might not have written this specifically in response to what I wrote to you, but I also know this is your attempt to clarify more of what you were trying to say, right? Anyways, this is quite a lot of text to address, so I will try to keep my post as simple and focus on what I view is your majors for developing your premise.

    But that raises one big, giant red flag for me. If all any Gentile ever had to do to have a covenant relationship with God was to perform the mitzvot as a Jew would…

    Ok, this is not a good place to start, first of all, who actually believes that performing mitzvot is what puts one into a covenant relationship? I do not believe this and I don’t not know other Messianics or HRM people who believe this? I am simply going to point out the strawman argument here.

    then why do we need Jesus in order to enter into relationship with God and be saved?

    Do Jews need Jesus in order to enter a relationship with God, no need for Jesus? Because that is what your question seems to imply on the verse side. Covenant relationship with God has always been based on the foundation of Faith, then comes any form of works which is the living out of your faith. This did not change with Yeshua coming, and never will change, read Romans 4.

    Just for your information, it is the understanding of myself and most that I know, that it is is because we are in Messiah, that we as gentiles, are part of the covenants and not the other way around as you are proposing. Ephesians 2.

    And back to the strawman:
    If Torah obedience is the primary key to entering into covenant relationship with God, then why don’t we all just convert to Judaism?

    Who believes this? I am anxious to find out!


    More to the point, why did God bother to send Jesus Christ to be born, live, teach, suffer, die, be resurrected, and ascend to Heaven? That’s a lot of trouble and certainly it wasn’t any fun for Jesus. All God had to do was send a prophet to go to the Gentiles (someone like Paul perhaps) and say, “Convert to Judaism and you will be saved.”

    Both Gentiles and Jews need the Messiah. Yes, if God only needed to send a prophet, which he did many times for Israel, then by your very definition Israel does not need the Messiah. All need the Messiah whether Jew or Gentile. This means Moses needed the Messiah, and Abraham, and King David, and Gentiles, etc. It is as if you believe in two different forms of salvation… one prior to Yeshua and one after.

    I will continue more of the debate in another post, as I don’t want these post to become too long.

  4. Zion, while no one in the MJ/HR movement may actually, consciously believe that Torah obedience all by itself results in a covenant relationship with God, the unintended result is that Yeshua definitely takes a back seat to Sinai. No one seems to talk about this consequence of Christians being primarily “Torah-focused” so I thought I would. It’s not a strawman argument. It’s an observation that has been overlooked for far too long.

    Although my blog post was rather long, the point is really simple. Without the Jewish Messiah, the people of the nations of the world would have no covenant access to God (unless they chose to convert to Judaism). Period. Our faith as Christians (and I include Hebrew Roots and “Messianic Gentiles” in that group) must be Christ-centered as opposed to Torah-centered with Jesus bringing up the rear. I know that no one intended to tell Jesus to sit at the back of the bus and maybe no one even realized that’s what happened…but it has happened.

    Zion, I don’t want this to develop into a long, bloated “debate” where you or Peter or someone decides to tear each and every word and phrase in my blog apart to prove that I’m wrong or mistaken or whatever. As I mentioned on Gene’s blog, these sorts of conversations ultimately go nowhere. I can’t actually stop you from trying to do that (short of blocking comments or some other similar action), but I am hoping you’ll be able to appreciate the core of my message which, as I’ve said before, is to put the Messiah in the center of our faith. I also said in my blog post that you can freely choose to perform any of the mitzvot you desire voluntarily (you should really read Rabbi Twerski’s commentary on taking on board more of the mitzvot than is required). My opinions relative to the Messiah and the Torah don’t inhibit you or any other person as far as your religious observance. I am just pointing out in our zeal to perform well on the path of faith, we don’t forget our goal.

  5. If you are not willing to discuss it, thus deleting post, just say: “please do not comment on what I write”. I personally would like to address it, because of the falsities I see, nothing more nothing less. Your intention of wanting to say that the focus is Yeshua, is right on, but saying that people of HRM or Messianic groups lose this focus is a generalization in false accusations, are there some who might believe this, sure there could be, but instead it is a directional accusation to those who believe we are part of God’s covenants, and thus I point it out to address. Heck, and maybe you will learn something that maybe you were confused about, because based on what you said, above, your “observation” does not meet or understand my beliefs or the beliefs of the many people I know who hold to the same understanding.

  6. If we were expected to surrender our “Gentileness” and covert to Judaism or in some manner or fashion, become obligated to the full mitzvot of Torah, even while retaining our Gentile identity, why would Paul say this?

    Sojourners, as I had shown you in the other blog, never lost their Gentileness, it never says a Sojourner becomes a Jew, instead it maintains the Sojourners status as a gentile, because of specific commands, one being the purchase of Land, if this were not the case, then that command is completely a joke. So why would they in this case as well? When you say convert to Judaism, you are anachronistically placing a specific belief into the Bible.

    So in essence you have built a premise, that covenant relationship has changed. That before Yeshua came, a gentile had to stop being a gentile, and become a Jew, and after Yeshua came, gentiles can finally be themselves and still be accepted. This ideology of a gentile becoming a Jew, is invalid to begin with. Gentiles do not become Jews, period, not through some replacement theology, not through some man made ritual, not through some magical thoughts…

    Do you believe Jesus created a religion for Gentiles called Christianity, since you do not believe Gentiles are part of Judaism or the religion of the Apostles?

  7. Peace to you all;

    Not that I don’t think this sort of debate is important, it is, and we should strive to be as correct as possible in how we follow the man who proclaimed to be the truth itself, but I just can’t help and wonder, at the end of the day, is this really what Yeshua, and G-d are all about?

    Was not Yeshua’s entire message about the active living of a faith in G-d? About setting things to a higher standard, of being written on the heart, not on the law? Surely the law is important, but only because it leads one to serve G-d, and ultimately, through this, to Love.

    I know James had touched on this before, and so I may be repeating some of what he had to say, but honestly, at the end of the day, isn’t it more important to be humble, and meek? To be kind to others, to help the poor, the lowly, the sick? To forgive? To Love? Aren’t these not the things that really matter?

    Was it not Paul who said, ” If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing ” 1 Corinthians 13 (ESV)

    Yeshua summed up the most important commandment, Love. Love of your neighbor, and through this, Love of G-d himself.

    I’ve been reading Luke this month and can’t help but think of this passage, found in Chapter 7;

    ” Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little ” Luke 7:47 (ESV)

    If our primary focus is not on love, all of this squabble about the law, and who is obligated to follow it, seems a silly racket. I think, time and time again, Yeshua demonstrated that this love, is the only thing that truly matters; for with love, one fulfills everything in and of itself, simply by loving, by being the type of person G-d meant for you to be.

    I guess my concern is that, having been following this debate for a while now, I rarely see any such love being demonstrated; it’s almost always a “I’m right, and you’re wrong” type of attitude, and not to take a jab here, but most often I see this behavior exhibited by the One Law proponents.

    Where is the love my friends? Ask yourself this, really.

    My, what an excellent argument you may have, but at the end of the day, are you not just a noisy gong, or a clanging symbol?

    I do not mean to engage in a debate, this was merely a comment for commentary’s sake, but, my friends, my fellow believers in Yeshua HaMashiach, don’t forget the Love.

    Peace to you all,

    Nate

  8. @Zion, you can comment all you want as long as you keep your comments reasonably civil (and you have on this and other blogs). I am just not obligated to going “toe-to-toe” with you about it. You may consider that unfair or something but after all, I’m the blog owner so I can choose which people/conversations I will engage.

    As time allows, I’ll go over your comments in more detail and determine how or if I’ll respond.

    @Nate, it’s difficult to introduce such a topic because it automatically invites debate. While debate can be a good thing, arguing almost never is. Neither is personalizing conflict and disagreement. On the other hand, the nature of the Internet to want or need to correct someone when we think they’re mistaken.

    We wait for the Messiah because he’ll bring peace. In Judaism, it is thought that in addition to being a King, he’ll be a teacher. He’ll teach us and then we’ll *know*. Until then, we struggle.

  9. Nate

    Great points, but I think you miss a fine point in all of this, the picture is not an argument over specific Law or theology per say, it is an argument based on community and that effects people within the community. What is being argued over is who fits where within the Body, and these issues people are offended by, hurt by, some are uplifted by them, some find peace about them. But they deal with a core problem that existed during the time of the Apostles, and is back for round 2 within the Messianic groups. You see Christianity got around all these issues by simply replacing anything Jewish and Israel with Church and Gentiles, but then an awakening started to occur, and now many are not willing to simply ignore the issues or just run from them by replacing them. The scriptures in fact deal with these issues, and yet they are still here today, this was obviously a big situation during that time and still is and will continue to be, as the Apostles spent chapters dealing with it. Understanding the real argument is key here, sometimes we can lose the real argument amongst all the emotions.

  10. Peace to you Zion,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly; it is very important to know where you fit in the Body of Mashiach. I’ve spent countless hours myself trying to figure out where I fit, and I’m sure I will continue to study this subject for the rest of my life. (I develop a bit of an obsessive personality type when it comes to finite details, as I really do believe they are ever important; but, to a point)

    I think my main contention is simply that, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, G-d will not be appraising our live’s based on what theology we proclaimed to, or what dogmas we preached, or even, despite its importance to all of us in this age, how we thought we fit in to the Body of Mashiach.

    Rather He will say to us (or may not, depending on how we lived our life),

    “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ … ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV)

    And it is precisely these things, these acts of charity, goodwill, and love, which truly give peace to my soul. Of course, Mashiach is my primary solace in this life, but these other things fill your heart with the Spirit, and you just “know” you’re finally starting to “get it.”

    I’ve just always felt that it’s more important to do, rather than think. Thoughts can give us peace to an extent, but for me, they begin to push me further, driving me to act; urging me to do my part in bringing about the Kingdom on earth, as it is in Heaven.

    Peace to you in your life,

    Nate

  11. James,

    I agree. It will surely be a great day when Yeshua finally sets things straight in the age to come. I believe, that both sides of this debate, may be in for some surprises. May that day come sooner than later!

    In Yeshua,

    Nate

  12. “Although my blog post was rather long, the point is really simple. Without the Jewish Messiah, the people of the nations of the world would have no covenant access to God (unless they chose to convert to Judaism). Period. Our faith as Christians (and I include Hebrew Roots and “Messianic Gentiles” in that group) must be Christ-centered as opposed to Torah-centered with Jesus bringing up the rear. I know that no one intended to tell Jesus to sit at the back of the bus and maybe no one even realized that’s what happened…but it has happened.”

    James, are you for real? Who do you think is raising all the commotion to exclude Gentiles? Did the Kool-Ade make you that drunk? Instead of complaining to Kinzer and his co-horts, you are coming to us? Isn’t the fact that they are the one who want to put Yeshua on the back burner because they want to become a part of mainstream Judaism?

  13. Nate,

    But you can’t separate the issues, how you live your life will be determined also by what you believe, and where your place is in all of this. If your place was to sit down and be quiet, then your life in some way would revolve around sitting down and being quiet (this was purely for example). At the end of the day, people continue to do as they believe, so regardless of the disagreements, I continue to follow the Torah to the best of my ability and others will continue to not follow Torah because it may not matter and most people, if nothing else, will follow whatever they make up in their mind is the best. These debates are specific and lack the context of every individuals life debating, so if we base each others lives on these debates, then we all look nit-picky and not focused on what is important, even for having blogs to begin with.

  14. “Zion, I don’t want this to develop into a long, bloated “debate” where you or Peter or someone decides to tear each and every word and phrase in my blog apart to prove that I’m wrong or mistaken or whatever.”

    We don’t have to, you are doing a pretty good job of it yourself. If you don’t want criticism, then stop bloging…..

  15. “I can’t actually stop you from trying to do that (short of blocking comments or some other similar action), but I am hoping you’ll be able to appreciate the core of my message which, as I’ve said before, is to put the Messiah in the center of our faith. ”

    How many time you heard me saying that our identity is in Messiah, not in Judaism? This is precisely what OL teaches. It is the kinzers of this world who push for separation….

  16. Zion,

    I guess where I might differ from many, is on my eternal outlook, and how I believe G-d will become all in all. I do not subscribe to the doctrine of eternal damnation, and thus, I believe that, in the end, of course through much learning, and refining, we will all become Sons of the Most High, and we will all be taught, directly, the way of the Master.

    I know this puts me in a black sheep position, but for sake of my stance, I thought it need be for you to know where I am coming from/looking to. And so, this doesn’t make me not care about these issues, but I realize that, if I cannot figure them out in this age, I have put my trust in Mashiach, and that He will teach me what is necessary in his due time.

    Peace to you,

    Nate

  17. “I am hoping you’ll be able to appreciate the core of my message which, as I’ve said before, is to put the Messiah in the center of our faith.”

    Amen. Good post, JP, and lots to chew on.

    I should learn to stop reading before I get to the comments section, though. 😛

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: snarkiness has no place in the body, gentlemen. My personal theology tends to be aligned with a OL position…but I am repelled by the snark factor that I see coming at James when he posts things that may run contrary to that idea. This is not good–especially if you are trying to win someone over for the sake of “truth”. Nate, your points on love are well taken.

    Peace & love~
    A

  18. Managed to catch a break so I could review the comments that have accumulated in my absence.

    Nate said: “I agree with you wholeheartedly; it is very important to know where you fit in the Body of Mashiach.”

    This actually is the big problem and why we have discussions like these. In reality, this conversation has a much wider scope, since it includes the entire Christian church and all of its denominations and sects, and probably to some degree, normative Judaism and it’s various flavors.

    Who are we and where do we belong? I’ve spent more hours pondering, praying, talking about, blogging about, and fretting over that question than I even realize. As I consider the question in terms of this blog post and the subsequent comments it has inspired, I realize that the MJ/HR movement is really no different than the larger Christian and Jewish world. There are multiple “expressions” of Christianity and Judaism that are based on questions of practice, theology, doctrine, and so forth. This set of Christians in a church can’t agree with the rest of the church so they split off and form their own denomination.

    Why should we expect to be any different within the “Hebraic” umbrella?

    Folks who believe all people, Jews and non-Jews alike, are obligated to an identical set of Torah mitzvot disagree with other folks who believe that Jews and non-Jews in the Messiah are united in God’s love and hold Messiah as central to the faith, but that roles and obligations differ based on covenant identity (Sinai/Davidic or Jews vs. Davidic or Gentile Christians).

    What happens?

    They divide based on their theological differences forming two different groups (that’s oversimplified because within those two big bubbles are a lot of different sub-groups who differ based on perceptions how they disagree within the context of their larger “bubble”).

    So what do we want from each other? Apparently, we want the other group(s) to abandon their position(s) and agree with us. Is that going to happen? I seriously doubt it. Particularly in the world of religion, once a person or a group have established their belief system, it’s extremely unlikely that they will change, especially when a related but unalike group tries to convince them to change. Really, do you think the Protestant church is going to convince the Catholic church to give up Catholism, jump the fence, and join the Protestants?

    So why are we doing this?

    From my point of view, it’s because Jesus/Yeshua said that we, all of his disciples which is one of the things we actually have in common, are supposed to love one another. Is it possible for a disciple in one group to love a disciple in another group when they don’t see eye-to-eye on their basic theology?

    I hope so, but it flies in the face of everything I know about human nature.

    In the end, I agree with Nate and Allison that what we’ll be judged for is how we have loved one another and what we have done to promote and live out that love. Did we feed the hungry? Did we clothe the unclothed? Did we visit the sick? Those are the things we all (hopefully) have in common, regardless of all of the other ways we differ. Heck, those are the things a Baptist has in common with an Orthodox Jew since both of them agree that God has commanded them to perform those acts of kindness.

    Does that mean that other specific mitzvot, such as lighting the Shabbos candles, praying with tzitzit, and keeping kosher don’t matter? Of course not. But these are the areas where we disagree and I seriously don’t believe that the larger body of Messiah will come to a consensus in the near future (unless the Messiah returns in the next ten seconds or so). Christians have been arguing about such matters for the better part of 20 centuries and Jews probably for a lot longer than that. Even in the time the Messiah walked on earth, normative Judaism was divided and the different groups disagreed with each other passionately.

    So we’re doing the same thing now.

    In writing this blog post, part of what I was trying to do is draw everyone’s attention to what we should all have in common: the Messiah. I wasn’t kidding in my blog post when I said that I’ve seen a disturbing trend in many of our groups taking their eyes off the Messiah in their zeal to pursue the mitzvot. We need to concentrate on the greater matters of Torah without neglecting the lesser parts.

    There’s a lot more I could say, but if I do, it’ll become another blog. Bottom line is that we aren’t always going to agree and that means we’re going to belong to different sub-groups of the Messiah’s disciples. I’m not sure if it didn’t work out the same way between Messianic Jews and the Gentile disciples by the time the Second Temple was destroyed. Maybe unity was never possible between the two groups and remains impossible until the Messiah returns.

    Oh, and I never said that I was suspending discussion about this topic, just that I wasn’t interested in getting involved in another fruitless bloodbath about the “niggling little details” that we never can agree upon or resolve. This is just one blog post. I create at least six of them every week. The blog isn’t my life. Jesus is. That’s what I’m trying to communicate.

  19. James,

    2000 words on average every morning has to be a big part of your life, you are not fooling anyone….You are just like any other bloger out there trying to lure people into what you believe, thinking you have found a better mousetrap. Keep writing these wonderful stories about you personal struggles, this here is out of your league….

  20. This approaches the significance of Jesus among Christians and Jews from a very different direction, but I believe D. Thomas Lancaster’s article Why Do I Need Jesus is a compelling read and worthy of your time (it’s much shorter than my blog).

  21. Thank you James. As you know FFOZ is not just about teaching the Jewishness of Yeshua, the centrality of Israel, the low view of the Torah to Christians and in the church, etc. We also are aggressive in presenting Yeshua to the Jewish people–defending his character, his teachings, his central roll to Jewish faith. We labor in these areas daily.

    Many people have forsaken Yeshua, even on a minimal level, for the sake of the Torah and to be in relationship with religious Jewish people. This is so unfortunate. The article was actually written by one of our new staff teachers and translators here at FFOZ named Yisrael Levitt. He is a strong Jewish believer that has just about lost everything for the sake of the Messiah. We’re blessed to have him with us. Daniel posted the blog as we have yet got nick into the system for blogging.

  22. Oops, that is going to cost me. I should have been more careful.

    I inadvertently said we teach, “the low view of Torah to Christians and in the church, etc.” We actually try to CORRECT the “low view of the Torah to Christians and in the church.” FFOZ has a great and positive message of the Torah for Christians to consider which in inspires them to learn, grow, and apply the timeless Torah truths to their lives as they are able.

  23. Yes, Yisrael mentioned on Facebook that he was the author of the piece and that Daniel’s name is attached because he posted it. As you know, I met Yisrael at the Shavuot conference last spring and I was very impressed by this young man. He is both brilliant and personable and a great asset to FFOZ and the world of Jewish and Gentile believers.

    In spite of our many differences, Yeshua is our common bond. There is so much strife among different Yeshua-believing communities, and this is especially tragic during Elul as we must learn to forgive. May the Master to commanded us to love each other turn our hearts, one person to another and most importantly to God.

    Blessings and Good Shabbos.

    EDIT: No worries, Boaz. Typos can be very unforgiving in the blogosphere but as I just mentioned, we must be forgiving of each other’s mistakes, even those minor ones we commit at the keyboard. 😉

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