Bless Someone Today

ancient_journeyAnd there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.

Acts 8:1-8

As I mentioned in yesterday’s extra meditation, the theme of last Sunday’s sermon and Sunday school teaching, based on the above-quoted scripture, was evangelism; the declaring of the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world around us. This is a significant mission among most churches and is carried out to one degree or another by Christians around the world. Not every Christian stands on a street corner with a Bible in one hand and a bunch of leaflets in another preaching to everyone who passes by, but based on the Master’s initial directive in Matthew 28:18-20, all believers understand that we have a mandate to, in one way or another, announce the Gospel to people in our world.

As I mentioned, this is a significant mission among the church, but there are bodies of believers where this mission isn’t apparently being enacted.

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know I separate Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots (One Law, Two House, Sacred Name) as distinctly different religious traditions, although they have some superficial areas of overlap. And yet, these two movements seem to talk to each other quite a lot, if the blogosphere is any evidence, while all but ignoring (with certain exceptions I’ll explain in a moment) the much larger body of believers that exist on the earth today: Christians.

Beyond this, (although there may also be exceptions) there is another large population of human beings both of these movements fail to engage: everybody else.

I’ve mentioned in prior blog posts an article written by Tsvi Sadan for Messiah Journal called “You Have Not Obeyed Me in Proclaiming Liberty.” In his write up, Sadan provides a small history of how Israeli Jews have come to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah through the Evangelical church. That process is changing and more recently, other Messianic Jews are spreading the message of the Messiah to their fellow Jews in the Land, but these Jews continue to operate largely from an “evangelical” mindset. This has resulted in what we see described in a recent news article for the Atlantic as “Messianic Jews…assiduously attempting to, essentially, redeem Israel from its Jewishness.”

The “good news” of Jesus Christ is being preached to the Jews but with the Jewishness of their faith omitted or significantly watered down.

Fortunately, Sadan offers an alternative as I recently mentioned but that doesn’t address the issue of Gentiles. Then again, in today’s age, are Messianic Jews obligated to spread the “good news” to the nations as a duty with which they were charged in ancient days?

I asked that question, perhaps as long as two years ago, and received an answer that, in terms of the dynamics of the different believing communities today, the most reasonable response is “no.” Given Sadan’s article, I can see that it might be a better idea to allow actual Messianic Jews who live a completely halakhic, ethnic, and religious Jewish lifestyle to employ keruv as the method of bringing Jews near to the Moshiach. Does that mean only the church speaks to the Gentile unbelievers?

jewsI mentioned Hebrew Roots before, which is primarily a Christian/Gentile owned and operated movement within larger Christianity (although many Hebrew Roots congregations refuse to claim the church as their own and prefer to bill themselves as “Messianic Judaism,” though most of their groups cannot be defined as “Jewish” by any reasonable halakhic standard). Who do they talk to? Besides the inevitable debates between Hebrew Roots and Messianic Judaism, Hebrew Roots rarely if ever engages in what we would typically think of as “evangelism.”

This was a source of frustration to me when I was involved in the One Law movement, but the whole system of One Law seems to be designed to approach people who are already Christians and who are, in one way or another, disillusioned with their churches. Once accessed, One Law proceeds to convince these Christians that they must take on board the total mitzvot of Torah and redefine themselves as “Messianic.” If anything, One Law, Two House, Sacred Name, and so on, are dedicated to “evangelizing” Christians to “convert” to their particular variation of “Christianity,” rather than performing the task Jesus commissioned his Jewish disciples with in Matthew 28:18-20 and doing what the Jewish disciples were doing in Acts 8:4-8.

It’s not like this hasn’t occurred to me before and it’s not like this topic hasn’t been discussed in the blogosphere before, so why am I bringing it up now?

In my Sunday school class, we talked about the general reluctance of Christians to fulfill the evangelical mission in their (our) personal lives. Sure, not all of us are going to go into the “foreign mission field” and preach the Gospel in places like the Congo, but we all live in the world, and the world is filled with people who, while they’ve heard of Jesus Christ, do not honor God and have no real awareness of His Presence. A traditional Christian might say, the world is full of “unsaved” people, but to me, salvation is just the beginning of the journey, not the whole point of existence.

If I can accept that Messianic Jews have a specific mission to address Jewish people and not the general population, and if I can accept that the church has a specific mission to address the general population, what mission does Hebrew Roots have? Do they just “feed” their own internal desires and consume their own theology and doctrine, or should they be reaching out as well? I don’t mean necessarily reaching out to take traditional Christians and recreate them in their own image, but to actually try to communicate the core message of the Gospel (Torah or non-Torah observance aside), and to “make souls for the Kingdom,” so to speak (if you can excuse the “churchy” language here).

As much as many Hebrew Roots groups denigrate and disdain the church, they seem to have left it to the church to do the “heavy lifting” of spreading the Gospel message. After all, how many One Law or Two House groups send missionaries into the Congo, to Tonga, to the Philippines, or anywhere else? How many Hebrew Roots congregations and organizations sent relief teams to Haiti after their devastating earthquake?

OK, I understand that Hebrew Roots groups are rather small and resources are limited. For that matter, the same can be said for Messianic Jewish groups. The traditional church as a whole is much larger, more organized, and better designed to render the sorts of assistance I’m talking about. I’m sure you must also be aware that Israel traditionally renders aid to other nations when disasters occur and Jewish groups provide tzedakah as a matter of course.

making_ripplesBut rather than pick on any one religious group (as I have been up until now), I’d like to suggest that whoever you are reading this and whatever sort of context you worship in, what are you actually doing for people, both in the area of giving aid and charity, and in sharing your faith with those who have no faith and hope in the world? The church sends the members of its body to visit the sick, provide clothing, medical supplies, and food to the needy and the suffering, and to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the four corners of the earth. Are your groups and your people doing that too? If not, why not?

Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel of Slobodka would sometimes sit near the window of his house and quietly bestow blessings and prayers on all those who passed by.

Once when Rabbi Finkel was walking down the street, he turned toward a house and said, “Good morning.” Rabbi Finkel explained: “Most people only wish someone a good morning when they see them face to face. But even when we do not see them, we should still develop good will toward them.”

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #663, Bless Others”

I’ve mentioned many times before that I believe we Christians have a specific responsibility to bless the Jewish people. However, I also believe that all of us are duty and honor bound to bless the world.

Bless others. Bless someone today.

4 thoughts on “Bless Someone Today”

  1. Perhaps a little clarification is in order here, regarding what Rav Yeshua actually said in Matt.28:18-20. Verse 19 is usually rendered in English as a command to “Go, therefore, and make disciples…”. But that is not what the Greek text says. The word presented as “go”, or the phrase “therefore go” (i.e., “πορευθέντες”, “poreuthentes”) is not specifically a command, but rather it may be represented as an introduction to the actual command to “make disciples”, saying: “as you pursue your journeying” or “as you arrange your life”, be making many disciples.

    Thus we can observe a consistency between Rav Yeshua’s instruction and normative rabbinic expectations seen in Pirke Avot 1:1 – “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua; Yehoshua to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets; and the Prophets transmitted it to the Anshei Knesset HaG’dolah (Members of the Great Assembly). They made three statements (taught three things): Be deliberate (thoughtful; patient; restrained) in judgment; establish many disciples; and construct a boundary (safety fence) around the Torah.”

    So the so-called “Great Commission” was not a command to “spead the good news” or even to “win souls”. It was “to make disciples”, which is a much deeper requirement with implications for Torah study if we consider the similar context in which Pirke Avot was written. In this context it is not enough merely to promulgate a message. Hence the mission you ascribe to the “Hebrew Roots” or “One Law” folks, that attempts to correct and deepen the spiritual life of other believers, is very much in keeping with the making of disciples. Whether they do it well or badly is not the issue here, so much as the validity of the nature of the activity. Of course, if the blind lead the blind, won’t they both fall into the gutter? So the quality of discipleship teaching is certainly important. And I would suggest that there is a valid question to be asked about who is presently qualified to perform the task, before it may be determined for whom they may do so.

  2. I understand what you’re saying, but there still won’t be any disciples to make unless the “good news” is first introduced to them. It’s like receiving a command to make a deep and life-long friendship with a stranger. The first step is still to introduce yourself.

  3. Wow. My husband and I were just talking about the topic of discipleship (amen and amen to proclaimliberty)–and the lack thereof–in our current HR congregation (and former bible church back in the day, for that matter). I’ve heard my husband try to change hearts and minds on the serious issue of discipleship for almost two decades now…and no matter the venue (baptist, MJ/HR congregation), he’s always swimming upstream.
    On a parallel, but somewhat different note, it seems that not only are we quite insulated/isolated from others and how they can serve/help us AND how we can serve/help them in our current HR community….but this was my experience in church too. We listen to and help those of our own, and as far as learning from outside voices that may contradict current beliefs…well, that’s just crazy and irresponsible! (Shh–don’t tell them I’m a faithful reader of yours, and a person who respects ffoz like nobody’s business…).
    As for “outreach” and what I gathered in my life in the church, there were ministries that were formed to occasionally go to the mission to work or to rake leaves for the elderly in fall…but this (in my humblest opinion) seemed to take the place of personal, individual responsibility to do such things. (“We have a ministry for that…”) I was hoping for something more when I got into a HR community…but alas, not where we are. The blessing for our little family here is that we are needing to refocus yet again, and realize that it is up to our family to walk out the kind of life of service and discipleship…we cannot lean on others and wait for their lead in such things. Though that would be easier…especially when motivation wanes, that is when a larger community shows its great value in pulling the individual along…but if it loses its proper focus, it can also drag and pull the individuals down. (Welcome to my dance)

  4. I was hoping for something more when I got into a HR community…but alas, not where we are.

    Some churches and probably a lot of Hebrew Roots groups don’t do outreach and “mission work” very well. Since the Pastor of the church I attend used to be a missionary (he’s only been a Pastor for five years) and is the son of missionaries, the church supports lots and lots of missionaries. In my blog post, I didn’t pull “the Congo,” “Tonga,” and “the Philippines” out of a hat. These are all areas where the church has actively or is actively supporting missionaries.

    I’m not saying this is the only way to spread the word and to make disciples of the Master, but it is a significant way. As the Pastor said last Sunday, in the U.S., there are no lack of opportunities to become a disciple of the Master, but there are some areas of the world that are filled only with darkness and hopelessness and a lack of the knowledge of God in any sense.

    Whatever else we may say about the “traditional church,” they do much more to introduce the Master and his teachings to people who have never heard them before than probably anyone in any of the believing Jewish or Hebraically oriented organizations currently in existence. Granted, that may not the emphasis for any of these groups, but if we aren’t willing to do the footwork, we shouldn’t put down those who are.

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