These experiences are both energizing and calming at the same time. They enable us to break beyond our own limitations and to merge our (relatively) tiny, insignificant selves with the greater infinite unity. If God’s creation can have such an impact on us, how much more would an experience with the Creator Himself.
Consider someone travelling the world seeking exciting experiences. Now tell him: “In the next room, you can sit down and speak to God Almighty Himself for an entire hour.”
Wouldn’t that be the ultimate experience?
-Rabbi Noah Weinberg
“Way #31: Seek The Ultimate Pleasure”
I’m continuing to read comments on Derek Leman’s blog post The Sabbath is Between God and the Jewish People. Frankly, I’m beginning to see why the Gentile Christians and Jewish disciples started going their separate ways early on, that is, if they faced the same situations that are evident in the accumulating comments on Derek’s blog. I mentioned in my previous meditation (and in an extra meditation) that I’m getting a little frustrated with the whole “jockeying for position” activity going on between what we refer to as Messianic Judaism and the Christians in various expressions of the Hebrew Roots movement. Rabbi Weinberg talks about the ultimate pleasure of encountering God. Do we ever encounter God in these blog discussions?
Next to love of God, all other pleasures are insignificant. We can have delicious pizza, lots of money, love and power. But humans yearn to transcend the mundane side of daily life. That’s why mystery, magic and miracles capture our imaginations.
When all is said and done, no human being can be truly satisfied unless he reaches out and connects with the infinite transcendent dimension. We all seek to connect with that which encompasses all pleasures. Because nothing finite, nothing bound up in this world, can compare to the infinite.
Um…hello, religious blogosphere? Do you think you might be missing something?
I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the best pieces of advice I have received recently comes from a friend of mine. Seeing past all of the “stuff” we tend to argue about, he told me to not seek “Christianity” and to not seek “Judaism” but to seek an encounter with God.
In his article, Rabbi Weinberg describes ways that people can develop a love for God. You can click the link I provided above and read this entire write-up, but in general, he suggests learning to love God through nature, through history, and through Torah.
Oops! Well, as Meat Loaf has famously sung, two out of three ain’t bad. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating. As I’ve also said before, a significantly large portion of the Torah is immediately available to any Christian, whether we choose to call it “Torah” or not. In fact, one of the people commenting on Derek’s blog unexpectedly said this:
Besides, the fact that Christianity doesn’t keep the external commandments of the Torah, doesn’t mean that Christians don’t keep a *lot* of the Torah’s commands. In fact, many Christian groups keep a lot more of the Torah’s commands than a lot of the more liberal Jewish groups. So I don’t put too much stock in what these other groups do or don’t look like.
So even Christians can love God in the manner that Rabbi Weinberg suggests with only a few small adjustments (it’s unlikely that most Christians will choose to express love for God by laying tefillin or fasting on Yom Kippur nor, as we see in Acts 15, is it required) but those adjustments are probably less significant than you might imagine. But what Rabbi Weinberg says next is very illuminating.
One important manifestation of loving God is the desire to share it.
When you love God and you see other people getting caught up in all sorts of trivialities, it hurts. Why? Because it pains you to see a fellow human being missing out on such an awesome pleasure. So when you’re filled with enthusiasm about being close to God, you want all of humanity to have that relationship, too.
This is not like human beings who become jealous when the attention of their beloved is directed elsewhere. When it comes to God, there’s no jealousy when other people have a relationship with Him. Because God is infinite.
Wow! Let’s go over that again and apply it to the theme of today’s missive:
When you love God and you see other people getting caught up in all sorts of trivialities, it hurts. Why? Because it pains you to see a fellow human being missing out on such an awesome pleasure.
My point exactly!
The rest of what he says sounds almost “Christian.” I mean after all, what are we urged to do as part of our Christian faith but to share the Gospel with everyone we meet. The church I attend has a strong missionary component. The head Pastor was a missionary and is the son of missionaries. The church supports numerous missionaries all over the world. Pastor Randy encourages us often from the pulpit to share our faith, to be active, to be vocal, to live holy lives.
When it comes to God, there’s no jealousy when other people have a relationship with Him. Because God is infinite.
God is infinite. His love, mercy, grace, compassion, and kindness are infinite. He provides for us in unlimited amounts. We cannot exhaust His supply of His gifts for humanity by sharing them with too many people. We are commanded to share. We are commanded to love.
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
–Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)
In my previous meditations, I compared some of the mitzvot to “toys” and painted a picture of how children are usually taught to share what they have. It doesn’t mean they’re surrendering a thing, it just means they’re sharing something pleasurable with a friend or even with a stranger. Children will start playing with a kid they don’t know faster than any adult will begin a conversation with a lonely stranger.
Again, I’m not trying to convince Jewish people to violate their sense of covenant identity by agreeing to a “one size fits all” philosophy regarding Torah, but I am saying that Paul didn’t seem to have a problem with the Gentiles meeting in a synagogue with Jews on Shabbat. Peter ate with Gentiles. It’s likely Cornelius davened at the set times for the prayers. This didn’t make Gentiles “Jewish” or “Israel,” but it did allow them to worship God using the only model they had available.
And style and lifestyle aside, isn’t experiencing God the whole point?
We are called “strangers” before we are reconciled to God, but God doesn’t let that stand in His way. He is completely and totally accessible to anyone who wants Him at any time and from any place.
So for those of us who (in theory) are reconciled with God, who know Him, who walk in the footsteps of our Master, why should we be afraid to share our pleasure in Him rather than continually drawing lines in the sand and saying which toys are “obligated” to the grafted in branches vs. which toys only belong to the natural branches? If someone who is unfamiliar with these sorts of debates is trying to make up his or her mind about whether or not to devote themselves to God, what are they going to learn when they visit your blog or mine? Are we sanctifying His Name or desecrating it, even inadvertently?
God is infinite beauty, grace, power, wisdom and meaning. What have you done to share that with someone today? What have I done?
Tomorrow, a more optimistic view.