The Equality Puzzle, Part 3

To be perfectly blunt: I must say the Christians have robbed the Jews! And perhaps what is worse is that this thievery has been encouraged by theologians, pastors, and even Sunday School teachers, where small children are taught to sing the song, “Every promise in the book is mine, every chapter, every verse, every line.”

Every promise in Scripture in some way benefits Christians, but it is not all promised to Christians. Sometimes the thievery has been inadvertent and unintentional. It’s like thinking that the raincoat hanging in the office closet is yours for wearing home because of unexpected showers. Hopefully, you will discover the raincoat belongs to a fellow worker and you will restore it. It is not as if Christians do not have the greatest promise of God, which is 1 John 2:25: “And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.”

Moishe Rosen
from his Foreward to Barry Horner’s book
Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged

This is Part 3 of a four-part series. Go to Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already read them.

I know that Mr. Rosen was addressing concerns with the traditional Christian church and the effects of Christian supersessionism on the Jewish people, but given what I said in Part 2 of this series, he could just as easily have been addressing Christian “One Law” proponents. I know “thievery” seems like a strong term to apply to people who want nothing but to obey God and all of the Torah mitzvot, but from a Jewish point of view, (even a “Jews for Jesus” point of view in the case of the late Mr. Rosen) that’s how it looks.

But Rosen says something curious at the end of the above-quoted statement. He says, “It is not as if Christians do not have the greatest promise of God, which is 1 John 2:25: “And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.”

The greatest promise of God means that we Christians are the direct beneficiaries of the promise of eternal life. What more do we want of God but what He has already granted us by His bountiful grace and mercy?

However, as human beings, we have a tendency not only to want what we can’t have, but to believe that we’re being shortchanged if, for instance, “Moishe” has been given a unique gift or responsibility that was not granted to “Barry” as well.

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. –Romans 3:1-2 (ESV)

I agree, being a Jew, including a “Messianic Jew,” has many advantages in relation to God. But saying that, and getting back to Mr. Rosen for a moment, I believe there are many advantages to being a Gentile Christian as well.

In the “Messianic” world, there’s a sort of covert bit of jealousy going on, at least with some of the non-Jewish participants, because these Gentiles see the beauty and wonder of living a Jewish religious lifestyle and they desire to live that life as well, but without converting to Judaism. More conservative elements in Messianic Judaism are echoing Moishe Rosen’s words and crying “foul” when One Law Christians demand the right to be obligated to the full weight of performing the 613 mitzvot, including those behaviors that specifically point to Jewish covenant status and Jewish identity markers. Those Jews cry out, (again, echoing Rosen) “Hey, that’s my raincoat. Give it back,” and in response the “Jewish raincoat wearing” Gentiles retort, “It’s mine, now.” as if they’re still singing the old Sunday School song,Every promise in the book is mine, every chapter, every verse, every line.”

I said clearly in Part 2 of this blog series that there is nothing preventing the Christian who finds meaning and beauty in the Torah from adopting many of the mitzvot in their worship lives. Please, you can joyously light the candles on Shabbos, pray the Shema, and daven facing toward Jerusalem. You can even feed the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned, help a lame person cross a busy street, and give abundantly to charitable causes. All of these are Torah mitzvot and if performing these deeds brings your heart closer to God, who am I as one lone Christian to tell you that they are forbidden you?

Oh wait.

What did I say? What were those mitzvot again?

I’m trying to clean up something that has become terribly muddied and messed up in translation. In “hosing off” the muddled confusion, I have “discovered” (no, it’s no great secret) that a great deal of the Torah is stuff that Christians all over the world have been doing for uncounted centuries. You want to “obey Torah?” It’s not complicated in its essence. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love justice. Do mercy. Smile at a stranger. Hug a small child with a scraped knee. Honestly, where’s the mystery? How hard is it to obey God? It’s a no brainer.

If, in the middle of all that, you want to order Kosher meals on your next international flight, or wear a head covering to honor the God who is always above you, I don’t think there’s much of a problem. No one is locking you out of the Torah or keeping the God of Israel hidden in a room with a sign on the door that says, For Jews Only.”

D.T. LancasterBut I keep saying that Christians are not Jews and I also keep saying that there are great advantages to being a Christian. But what are those advantages, I mean besides eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord? If there are advantages to Jews that uniquely belong to Jews, can the same be said about Christians?

I should say at this point that even if, beyond having our sins forgiven, coming into a “right relationship with God,” and being granted eternal life, there are no other “special advantages” to confessing Christ and coming to faith in the Jewish Messiah, is it really our place to complain to God about it? Hasn’t He done enough for us? If he chooses to assign additional obligations to the Jew, including the Messianic Jew, that He does not apply to the Gentile Christian, isn’t that God’s right? Maybe we can apply one of the Master’s parables to our own situation by way of an answer.

And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” –Matthew 20-8-16 (ESV)

I know it seems as if I’m contradicting myself because the parable is actually about how God’s love, grace, and salvation are applied in equal measure regardless of what age a person is when they come to faith. That is, everyone, no matter who they are or how old they are, eight years or eighty, when they become disciples of the Master, receives the same gifts from God as equals. Couldn’t this also mean that the obligations of Torah should be distributed evenly to both Jew and Christian as equals?

But look at it another way. The workers who were hired early and worked longer received the same wages as the workers who were hired later and worked less…and the “early hires” were ungrateful and jealous, even though it’s the Master’s money and he can pay as he pleases.

It’s also God’s Torah and He can apply it as He pleases. Are we really going to “get in God’s face” and kvetch about it? Just how ungrateful and ungracious do we want to be?

So what advantage is there in being uniquely Gentile Christian? As Paul might say, “much in every way.”

Instead of attacking Christianity, Messianic Gentiles would do well to focus on what is good about Christianity. This is necessary for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that Messianic Gentiles, as stated above, 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.

It isn’t difficult to find good things to say about Christianity. First, Christianity has brought billions of people to Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah and King of the Jews. This is a non-trivial accomplishment. Even some Jewish scholars have recognized the significance of this fact. In Hilkhot Melakhim 11:10–12, Maimonides credits Christianity with preparing the Gentile world for the arrival of King Messiah by spreading knowledge of the Bible far and wide. If even those who do not claim Yeshua as Messiah can affirm the good that has come from Christianity, certainly believers should be able to as well.

Second, Christianity has helped uncountable numbers of poor, hungry, destitute, abandoned people. Myriads of counselees—drug abusers and alcoholics, victims of abuse, troubled spouses—have benefited from a pastor’s biblical advice. From Carey and Wilberforce’s campaigns against satī in India to the modern phenomenon of “adopting” starving African children, Christians everywhere have expended their resources to help those less fortunate. Today, Christian orphanages in India take in abandoned children with nowhere else to turn, just as devout Christian George Müller did over a century ago in England.

Most of these people—the poor, the abandoned, the disenfranchised, and the abused—will never understand how Yeshua fulfilled the Passover. They may never taste matzah. They may never utter a single word of Hebrew or even be able to read the Bible in their own language. Yet they rely, just as we do, on the saving grace of God through Yeshua the Messiah.

-Boaz Michael
from an early manuscript of his forthcoming book
“Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile” (pp 50-51)

For nearly twenty centuries, the church has preserved the Gospels of Christ and the letters of Paul, James, Peter, and others, and that “good news” has brought countless millions of human beings into covenant relationship with God. How many people found faith who would have otherwise been hopelessly lost without the church? How many people have been given clothing, food, medicine, companionship, mercy, and kindness by Christians whose only motivation was to serve the Savior and to the will of God? I admit that many terrible things have been done in the name of Jesus, but that’s the fault of flawed and damaged human beings, not the will of the Creator of the Universe. When we actually do His will, it always is for the good.

But you might be saying right now, “So what? Haven’t Christians have always done that?”

I’ll answer that question and more in the Fourth and final part of this series.

Addendum: Derek Leman has written a blog post called Is MJ Guilty of Jewish Elitism? The theme is substantially similar to this series of “meditations” and I recommend that you stop by Derek’s blog and have a read.

9 thoughts on “The Equality Puzzle, Part 3”

  1. James,

    Do you still censor comments? I’d like to say something but if it’s just going to be deleted then I don’t want to waste my time.

    Sincerely,

    Peter

  2. Peter, your comment got stuck in my spam filter so my response to you is terrifically late. I can’t promise how I’ll respond to a comment unless I can see its content. All I can see is that I will treat your comment the same way I treat everyone else’s. If you’re concerned about it being edited or deleted, just email me with what you have to say and we can discuss whether or not the conversation can “go public” or if we should keep it “backchannel.”

    Thanks.

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