I see church as a less than ideal environment for anyone who wishes to follow Torah…I see the need for rescue missions but for everyone in churches…I think they all need to be rescued — rescued from anti-Judaic doctrines…I see those anti-Judaic Christian doctrines as negatively affecting both Jews and gentiles. There is only one faith and it’s a Jewish faith — it’s the Judaism proposed by Yeshua and the authors of the New Testament.
-a comment from Peter
on Gene Shlomovich’s blog post
One Law Gentile Has a Change of Heart
I’m probably going to regret this, but I really can’t avoid writing this “meditation,” especially given the angst-filled missive I posted yesterday. But in having my conversation over at Gene’s blog, I realized that I’ve been just as guilty of misjudging Christians and been treating the church just as unfairly as I think Peter is. However, he’s right in that he can at least go to a church without writing a month’s worth of daily blogs exposing his every doubt and misgiving, as opposed to me dragging my heels every inch of the way between here and the nearest chapel.
Peter suggests that Christians need to be rescued out of the church and returned to…what?
Well, let’s go back a step. Rescued from what?
rescued from anti-Judaic doctrines…
So you get a small army together, raid a local church during Sunday services, scoop everyone up in a big net, and fly them via helicopter to…where? A late Second Temple era “ekklesia?”
But they don’t exist and frankly, we don’t know how to replicate one. Even if we did, is that our goal? To transport all 21st century Christians back in time twenty centuries to the first “churches” established by Paul in the diaspora? To what end?
OK, I get it. If the Gentiles never stopped worshiping the Jewish Messiah with the Jewish disciples, chances are supersessionism would never have developed and we’d all be hunky-dory together, Jews and Gentiles all praying to Jesus, right?
Well, maybe not.
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
–Romans 11:11-24 (ESV)
What picture is Paul painting here? This letter was addressed to a congregation of disciples in Rome that included both Jews and Gentiles. He’s “toggling” back and forth between each population in this letter, trying to keep each group from playing the “superiority card” against the other. He’s telling both the Jewish group of disciples and the Gentile group of disciples not to get too cocky, because God is the final judge of who will be on the root and who will knocked off, and for that matter, who will be put back on again. The “glue” was (and is) faith, not simply being Jewish or being non-Jewish.
But even this early in the history of “the church,” the friction between Jewish and non-Jewish disciples was evident…and this was a combined congregation, with Jews and Gentiles worshiping together, breaking bread, fellowshiping, davening together.
On the one hand, both the Jews and Gentiles in Rome would have been part of the Roman culture, but on a deeper level, Jews, no matter where they live, have their own culture, apart from the surrounding goyim. Chances are, the “Messianic” Jews lived in a Jewish section of Rome, apart from the Gentile disciples. Chances are, there were a thousand other cultural, ethnic, lifestyle and halalaic differences between the Jews and Gentiles that, while they were held together in their faith in the Messiah, they were also separated in these many other ways. Why do you think Paul had to write “neither Jew nor Greek” to other churches as we see in Galatians 3:28?
Often, we miss these matters when reading the New Testament, but the struggle to integrate the non-Jewish nations and the various cultures they represented into the worship of the God of Israel must have been an enormous task for the Jewish disciples who were, at that time, the leaders and mentors of the ekklesia of Christ. Friction between the Jews and the various people groups from the nations was inevitable from the beginning. Maybe that’s part of the reason Paul wrote to the Roman Gentiles, ” a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
The partial hardening upon Israel has to come! If the Messianic (Christian) faith had remained exclusively or primarily Jewish at that point in history (and especially if the Gentile disciples were expected to take on the full yoke of the Law as a minority of Hebrew Roots practitioners believe today), then either the Gentiles would not have accepted Jesus in such great numbers or, they would have “reinvented” the faith anyway, alienating the Jews and recreating the Jewish Messiah as the Goyishe Jesus.
Does that mean that part of God’s plan for integrating the nations into faith and trust in God through the Jewish Messiah was a separation between Jews and Gentiles? It certainly could be seen that way. Does that mean we must always be totally separate and even hostile toward one another? Absolutely not. The budding Messianic Jewish movement of the past few decades, which is now gaining increasing traction, is evidence that we can interface and fellowship while retaining our national and cultural distinctions.
I’m quite familiar with the history of supersessionism in the church and the long centuries of enmity between Jew and Christian and thankfully, that is slowly ending. But is the “cure” for this supersessionism to remove the Christians from the church and to include them in a Jewish synagogue setting, attempting to integrate them into modern Jewish cultural and religious practices?
Or is there another way?
What about Christians who are not supersessionist staying in the church or returning to church? What about being members of a church so that the church can become more aware of its heritage and its connections to ancient Judaism; so it can begin to recognize the face of the Jewish Messiah King as the actual face of Jesus Christ?
I launched Going Back to Ekklesia a day early because I needed to write this “sequel.” I needed to firm up my commitment to return to fellowship with other Christians and not treat them as an “alien other” that I’m just “visiting” but not actually a part of. If I am to champion the cause of Christianity to those “Christians” I encounter who disdain the name, then I must belong to the group of people, the church, who have faithfully followed the cause of Christ.
I apologize to anyone who I’ve offended by my previous comments, particularly in my hesitation at joining fellowship. I realize now, by seeing the church through another’s eyes, that I was being woefully unfair and unkind. I ask that you accept me as a fellow brother in the faith, though I probably won’t always talk as you’d expect a Christian to express himself (just read my blog posts to see what I mean). If my personal “wall of separation” is to come down, then I’m the one who has to remove it.
I have no illusions that I’m so powerful or smart or cool that my single contribution will be some sort of “big deal,” but if nothing else, I’ll remove any sort of dissonance from my statements and I’ll have something “real” to talk about.
Whatever comes your way today, whatever situation you walk through, you are safe in God’s hands. Any storm that swirls around you swirls around Him. He is your Shield, your Strength, your Rock, your Fortress. Nothing is getting through without His permission. We may not always understand why He allows what He allows, but we can cling to the blessed fact of His everlasting love.