Journey to Reconciliation, Part 2

Now we see that both Jews and Christians are vital to the realization of God’s plan and the return of the Messiah. The nation of Israel must be the centerpiece of the world so that Messiah can rule and reign. Christians must support Israel’s return to the Torah or the nation will fail and we will never see the Messiah’s return. No one has to be ashamed of who they are, whether they’re Jewish or Christian, and I’m indebted to the brilliant, young Jewish scholar Jordan Levy for presenting this point just prior to Boaz’s final teaching. I also thank her for saying something I hope I’ll never forget and something I don’t want you to ever forget. She said that in fulfilling our role as supporters of the redemption of Israel, we become “the crown jewels of the nations.” What a wonderful blessing for us to have as we bless Israel and play our part in restoring her to God.

from my blog post
Redeeming the Heart of Israel, Part 2
May 2012

In Part 1 of this series which I posted yesterday, I gave you a brief summary of my personal history with the Hebrew Roots movement. Space won’t allow me to provide you with all of the details regarding my journey, and how I progressed from a “one law fits all” viewpoint to one that recognizes distinct roles for the Jew and the Gentile as disciples of the Jewish Messiah. If you really want to know what I went through, the last year of my faith journey before adopting my current path is chronicled at Searching for the Light on the Path, but I warn you that it contains 214 individual blog posts, so you may want to reserve some time before reviewing this compilation of missives.

I also promised you a solution to the “mess” that I believe Hebrew Roots is currently stuck in. Please keep in mind that this solution won’t sit well with everyone. In fact, I doubt that the majority of people I know on the web who are currently involved in Hebrew Roots groups will accept what I have to say at all. I offer this “meditation” today to them, but also to everyone else reading this who may be involved or interested in one fashion or another, but aren’t sure which way to go. I only hope to provide you with a way to unity and peace rather than division and conflict.

Instead of attacking Christianity, Messianic Gentiles would do well to focus on what is good about Christianity. This is necessary for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Messianic Gentiles are Christians. Just as important, though, is the impact this positive attitude will have on any effort to bring Christians to recognize the Jewish roots of their faith.

-Boaz Michael,
President and Founder of First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)
from an early manuscript his forthcoming book “Tent of David”

Consciously make an effort to fill your mind with positive thoughts. Practice focusing on the hundreds of positive aspects of your life. Be aware of your ability to see, talk, walk, etc.

Thoughts always keep racing through your mind, so gently keep your focus on all the positive details of your life. Realize that you are the one who chooses what thoughts to dwell on. Choose those thoughts which enhance your life.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Accentuate the Positive, Daily Lift #86”
Aish.com

I have heard it said that “you are what you think.” In other words, it’s not so much your circumstances that make up who you are, but what you think and feel about those circumstances.

When I was in graduate school many years ago, one of my instructors told us that he was raised in a very poor neighborhood as a child, with very few options for entertainment and activity. He often spent his time near the railway station, playing among the tracks, kicking cans, drawing in the dirt with sticks, and otherwise running around with other kids in the area. He told the class that, looking back on his childhood, he could have complained about what he didn’t have, compared with children from more financially secure homes, but as far as he could remember growing up, he had a great time.

Maybe another person coming from the same background and having identical experiences could look back on their childhood and only experience anger, frustration, and even shame at having grown up poor.

It depends on how you look at it.

It depends on how you look at Christianity, too. Is the church good or evil? There’s no denying the objective history of the church in that it has committed horrendous acts of cruelty in centuries past. It has also performed amazing acts of kindness, mercy, and grace.

For twenty centuries, the church has been the sole custodian of the good news of Jesus Christ, preserving the Gospels and the Epistles so that we in the early twenty-first century can begin to learn of the ways and teachings of our Lord and Savior.

I’ve already mentioned the courageous acts of Anglican priest Andrew White in not only protecting Iraqi Christians and Jews, but in promoting attempts to return the world’s largest repository of Torah scrolls to the Jewish people from where the scrolls are languishing in a hidden sub-basement in a museum in Baghdad.

ShavuotAt last May’s First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) Shavuot Conference, I met more than a few Christians who are embracing the Jewish Jesus including Jacob Fronczak, who is an Associate Pastor at Union Church in Quincy, Michigan. He also recently became a regular contributor on the FFOZ blogs.

Interestingly enough, one of my sons met a local Baptist Pastor last week who seems to have a heart for the Jewish people and Israel. This is a man who lived in Israel for fifteen years and currently ministers to a church in Meridian, Idaho. I’ve yet to meet this gentleman, so I can’t say anything more, but my son said he’d be glad to introduce me if I’m interested. Yes, I’m interested.

How many hospitals have been established by Christians? How many orphanages? How many Christians are working with AIDS victims? How many Christians volunteer at soup kitchens, homeless shelters, foodbanks, battered women’s shelters? How many Christians provide services to foster children, to pregnant women searching for an alternative to abortion, to disenfranchised youth, to drug addicts, to the poor, the desperate, the lost, the hopeless?

Christians are human beings just like anyone else and as such, we are not perfect. We are flawed. We make mistakes. We lose our tempers. We have regrets. But we also have a path that was set before us nearly 2,000 years ago by a Jewish Rabbi, prophet, and saint who taught us that feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and providing for the widow and orphan were the most important things we could do in our lives. He taught us that when we showed love, mercy, and compassion for our fellow human beings, no matter who they are or where they come from, we were also showing love for him, and for the God we serve.

Human beings can do many terrible things, but we are also capable of much good. Many Christians have done terrible things, but not because Christ desired it or taught the lessons of wrong. That was our fault. We frail mortals, and we can be tragic makers of folly.

God is One and He is perfect. Jesus Christ is Messiah, Lord, and Savior, and he did something that had never been done before in the entire history of humanity; he made it possible for the entire world of people to become reconciled with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, without having to convert to Judaism. Through Jesus Christ, God accepts everyone just as they are, man and women, people from every nation, ethnicity, race; the entire diverse fabric of humans, each and every single thread, no matter how worn or frayed.

Viewed through the lens of everything I just said, the church is good; it’s exceedingly good.

More to the point, the church has a tremendous potential and an incredible destiny.

How do people who have been taught that the church is bad, that Christianity is bad, and that the only way out is to re-invent themselves into something based on a Jewish template while rejecting the church proper, even begin to reconcile with their fellow Christians? The solution is to re-invent our perspectives, our viewpoints, and our attitudes. There’s nothing wrong with the church that isn’t wrong with human beings. The Hebrew Roots movement is no better and no worse than the church since their members emerged from the church. If we Christians are transformed, it’s by the saving grace of Christ, not by switching allegiances from one form of Christianity to another. We don’t become better people by abandoning the word “Christianity” and calling ourselves “Hebrew,” “Israel,” or “Messianic.”

We can become better by not walking away from a church that does immeasurable good, that feeds homeless and hungry people, that cleans up the yards of people who are too sick from chemotherapy to do so themselves, that hosts celebrations for military personnel returning from the field of battle who have no one else to welcome them home.

Instead of denigrating the church and disdaining Christianity, we can recognize that “Christian” and “Messianic” are the same thing. I know that these labels are designed to differentiate between people who have separate beliefs about the Jewish Jesus, what he taught, and what that’s supposed to mean to us today, but we are more alike than unlike, in spite of what you might have read elsewhere in the blogosphere. Our core beliefs that God is One, that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior, and the King are virtually identical.

If you feel that “the church” hasn’t done such a good job recognizing the Christ as the Messiah, you won’t help change that by rejecting the church. You can become an instrument of positive change by having a positive attitude toward Christians.

Although I have very unique perspectives on the Messiah, on God, on the Bible, the Torah, and many other elements of my faith, I call myself a Christian. Believe me, there was a time in my life when wild horses couldn’t have dragged that word out of me. I was “Messianic” or a “disciple of Yeshua HaMashiach.” “Christian” was a dirty word.

Then, after a long period of soul-searching, praying, reading, studying, and more online arguments than I could count, I realized I had been terribly unfair and unjust. More importantly, by watching my Jewish wife explore her own Jewishness, I realized that I had no right at all to covet a relationship and a covenant that belongs to her and her alone as a Jew.

And I realized that didn’t mean anything bad about me. It didn’t make Jews better than me and it didn’t make Jewish racial, ethnic, and covenant distinctiveness somehow elevated above me. The idea that Jews are being “racist” when they claim the Sinai covenant as their own is ludicrous. As Canon White says, “We need to learn from and love our older brother.”

We also need to learn from and love the church. In humility and compassion, we can participate in our churches and show our fellow Christians how our hearts have become tender toward the Jewish people, including those Jews who are disciples of the Jewish Messiah. If we want true unity in the body of Messiah, we must be agents of unity. If we want Christians to be compassionate toward Jews, we must be compassionate toward the church.

Our journey of reconciliation begins with a single step. But we must turn away from behaving like victims. We must turn away from hurt, anger, resentment, hostility, and turn toward forgiveness, compassion, mercy, and love.

How this all will work out, I don’t really know yet. I have a few ideas, but I’ll save them until they’re more developed. I’ll probably get some help with this, since I have my own outstanding issues with the church, though I find my thoughts and feelings are slowly changing.

If you want Christianity to change, then you can be that change. Mahatma Gandhi said it better than I ever could:

You must be the change you want to see in the world.

Amen.

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