On the heels of writing yesterday afternoon’s meditation, I realized this whole “Judaicly aware Gentile on a deserted island in search of God” thing is really quite overblown.
That I have a relationship with God as an individual non-Jew is hardwired into every human being including me. It’s a matter of making teshuvah continually, repeatedly or constantly turning back to God, and then pursuing that relationship in whatever flawed and imperfect way I can, day by day, for the rest of my life.
There’s no complex praxis or ritual involved. We know that the Centurion Cornelius (Acts 10) prayed at the set times of prayer, which likely means he prayed three times a day. He also gave much charity to the Jewish people. His prayers and acts of charity were recognized by God, much as Abraham’s faith in Hashem was considered to him as righteousness.
Having a relationship with God, for anyone, is a matter of allowing your day-to-day life to reflect righteousness and holiness. How? It’s not that complicated. Do good things to other people.
Pick up a piece of litter. Hold a door open for someone trying to enter a building behind you. Be kind to everyone you meet. Give to charity. Volunteer to help others in some capacity, such as at a food bank.
Give thanks to God for all you have, whether in plenty or poverty. Be content with everything that comes to you, for it’s all from the hand of God.
As far as it’s up to you, live at peace with everyone.
Really, if you can’t figure out what you can do to be a good person and a good servant to people in your family, people in your community, and a good servant to God, you haven’t been paying attention to your faith.
This is what I mean about the practices of Messianic Judaism sometimes being a distraction to those non-Jews involved. Admittedly, Hebrew prayers spoken and sung by people who are fluent (and musical) sound incredibly beautiful to me…and are far beyond my linguistic and tonal abilities.
But will God not hear my prayers if they aren’t in Hebrew or if I can’t carry a tune in a paper sack?
Admittedly, many parts of the prayer service and Torah service on Shabbat appeal to me, but let’s face it. I’m not Jewish. As far as I know, there’s no commandment for the goyim to daven in a minyan. If I pray alone, in English, is God going to ignore me? He didn’t ignore Cornelius.
So many “Judaicly aware” Gentiles are worried about how to perform this mitzvah or that, but they are (and I have in the past) making their lives so much more complicated than they have to be.
If you don’t have your hands full just resisting your evil inclination and striving to follow your good inclination, then either you are a bonafide saint or you’re delusional.
But I’ve been casting myself as outside of community, just me, a Bible, and God. What if I should find myself in a church or synagogue (or where ever) on occasion?
No problem. Do what the locals do. Stand up when the congregation stands up, sing when they sing (or sing softly if you have a voice like mine), if some part of the service is in Hebrew and you don’t know Hebrew, don’t say or do anything.
In Sunday school or some other social gathering, be polite and friendly, but don’t offer any opinions or otherwise shoot your big mouth off (this is one of the reasons I don’t belong in community, because I can’t keep my mouth shut).
The principles behind living a life of holiness before God as a Gentile aren’t particularly hard. The only really hard thing is actually living up to that life of holiness. That takes a lifetime of practice, and no one gets to be perfect at it…
…least of all, me.
16 thoughts on “The Simplicity of a Life of Holiness”
You mentioned gentiles not praying in a minyan, by which I’m sure you meant not interfering in a standard Jewish one. But the thought immediately jumped to my mind about the first hint of the notion of a minyan in Torah, which was Avraham’s final arguing position regarding the impending destruction of Sodom. He didn’t mention prayer, but it was from this case of HaShem answering Avraham, that for the sake of ten righteous men He would spare the entire wicked city, that the rabbis determined that ten Jews praying together constituted a sufficient justification to request HaShem’s mercy on any matter. However, the men of Sodom were not Jews (not even Lot’s family), hence if ten righteous gentile Sodomites could have been found, the city could have been spared. It is because of their lack (and their corresponding sins) that it was not spared, and that the very notion of finding “righteous Sodomites” seems nowadays like such a contradiction of terms. Nonetheless, one could infer that even a properly-constituted gentile minyan would be perfectly in accord with Torah.
I suppose it’s one of the adaptations that may be applied to Gentile worship in the future Messianic Age. And I suppose there’s nothing stopping ten righteous Gentiles from praying in a “minyan,” adapting the current Jewish practice to some degree.
James. Just had to reply and tell you how much I am helped by and love to read your meditations. So full of common sense and you do such a good job of analyzing various issues and subjects. I learn a lot from your approach. I don’t click on every Meditation( time constraints) but I always check the title and find it hard to not click for fear of missing what I need to know. Just wanted you to know I think you do very well at what you do.
In gratefulness and appreciation for your writings,
P.S. I also am a Gentile believer agreeing about the Jewish perspective of the Scriptures and the central story of the Bible being the story of Israel as God’s instrument to bring His blessings to the nations.
Thanks, Bill. I appreciate your kind words.
Certainly setting yourself aside for acts of righteousness, and doing teshuvah is what you are supposed to do, and one does not need rules and regs once you know these things.
It is in speaking clearly about your personal view of acceptable rules and regs to others that the difficulties begin, as well as enduring in patient acceptance people telling you how to set yourself into a holy state of performing mitsvoth, whichever ones you consider yourself liable for, and to do teshuvah for what you think you did wrong.
Being on the ‘island’ is often like Shabbat for a Gentile…a blessed relief from the secular world, yet because of our specific lack of community within the same hashkafah, also a bit lonely.
And so we await haMashaich…may he come quickly.
The problem is, we really can’t demonstrate to the world the holiness of God if we are isolated from the world. We have to be in it but not of it.
I think this may be one of your best blogs yet, James.
Thanks, Michele. Having answered (at least for myself) that one central question, I’m not sure where to go next, if anywhere. It’s the core definition of a life of holiness, at least for a Gentile, so what’s left?
@James — What’s left? What’s next? Probably the hardest task of all, which is enacting it existentially in everyday life, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Merely defining a life of holiness isn’t so very hard (though one should never trivialize the effort required to do so). But figuring out how to apply the principles of such a definition in the moment that each situational challenge arises can be harder than the proverbial Star-Trek challenge of reading Klingon (and *that’s* hard, according to Scotty).
It was just such a challenge that drove the 17th-century Methodists to develop daily disciplines and routines for living that became the reason for their being called “Method-ists”. They were, of course, not the only group throughout history to attempt to define such routines that would aid them in making habits out of right thinking and right doing (the Pharisees come to mind). After developing such routines and tools and guidelines and mechanisms, however, the challenge shifts to one of avoiding rigidity that inhibits fresh thinking about new situations (or even about old familiar ones), and continuing development toward righteous maturity.
The essence of holiness is separation…from all things that lead into un-righteousness.
You have all the right ideas, but you need your own list of what to separate from. Then you one by one begin to separate from them. What you need to do to make it work, speaking from my own struggle, is that you need to replace every old kind of action with a new action, and I haven’t figured that one out yet in most cases. So I ask Abba to change me, and He does. It’s a little easier, but we always have to take the first step in any movement towards the ideal walk of Yeshua.
I am still separating from what is normal in living today, and finding it very difficult because one becomes un-normal, and it gets noticed. It embarresses people, challenges them, and even makes them feel bad if they think you are doing something they ought to do. And that’s without spending too much time speaking about it or explaining why you just don’t do what they do anymore.
I think it would be easier for me and my Christian friends if I told them I was converting to Messianic Judaism…except that I’m not, exactly, and then they would get back onto their highhorse about what is law and what is grace, and we’d be back into it again, since they are not reading the dozens of books I generally have open at the same time, nor even much of the Scriptures, which is the crucial book to compare all else to.
But the knowledge of the need of separation…the actual meaning of holiness is the most important point you have brought up.
I also agree with Michele…it is a great blog, and the last handful of posts have been very comforting and challenging at the same time for anyone reading you regularly.
As for demonstrating holiness, one does that more or less every day with everyone you meet…not necessarily going to a congregational meeting of some sort. I do bump elbows with my friends regularly and G-d arranges that everyone I meet in a store is a fellow Believers in Yeshua, just not necessarily walking any direction near where I am going.
I just don’t go to church or Synagogue. Changing away from what is considered ‘normal’ in America hampers conversation, unless I spend extra time keeping up with their Christian stuff, and I do, so they at least don’t feel I am shoving them away. But it leaves me with very little to say of worth except when I write…and my friends do not read what I write. And if they aren’t reading even the Scriptures, why should they read me? I am not pastor or teacher…just a G-d explainer, from my viewpoint as a Messianic Gentile.
My question about what comes next was somewhat rhetorical. Once you define what holiness means in your life, what else do you write about (if you’re a writer)? It’s a matter of doing holiness which, as PL puts it, is harder than reading Klingon (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home).
As far as separation goes Questor, I suppose Rav Yeshua’s words about being in the world but not of the world apply. We were placed in the world the day we were born. Paul wrote periodically about what to embrace and what to avoid (for the Gentile disciple), but we still have to exist in the world and interact with it to be that light Rav Yeshua also spoke of.
PL, it sounds like you’re suggesting some sort of Gentile halachah, which is part of what I’ve been avoiding, since generally “Messianic Gentiles” are all but obsessed about their “Jewish-like but not Jewish” praxis (when should I pray, how should I pray, should I always wear a hat during my waking hours, and so on).
While I can see having a set of daily rituals can act as a framework upon which to build a life of holiness, a number of non-Jews within Messianic Judaism or Hebrew Roots have made that framework their overarching goal, rather than what it’s supposed to represent. It might be better to first define “what can I do that is good” and do that before (for the Gentile) wondering if it’s too late in the day to pray shacharit.
I believe that the most interesting thing one can do as a Messianic Gentile is to write about a life that has no halachah except the concept of righteous living, as stated rather simply in the Scriptures for Jews and Gentiles alike. Once you decide which laws you feel apply to you as a Gentile, just being aware of the need to do them is rather hard to live up to, without adding any halachah because of the insistence of perfection taught to everyone in the Christian Church, and the Christian hash’kafah. Orthodox Messianic Jews have a fence around the Torah just so they are sure of living sufficiently well, I assume, without trying for the concept of perfection as is taught in Christianity, which is impossible to perform perfectly in all varying situations except by Yeshua. It is the reason after all, that Jews and Gentiles alike need Grace, and Yeshua for our kapparah.
I am, in a general kind of way, attempting to keep the Ten Categories, the Moedim, and Kashrut as defined in Acts 15, and have upped my game to limiting myself to clean foods, but without rules or ritual, as I have no community to live within, and consequently, no Kosher butcher to go to within 130 miles, and I haven’t found a Kosher butcher that ships frozen goods as yet. I have developed a few traditions of my own, but they are not worthy of documentation. I already know what is good for an Observant Messianic Jew to do, and I figure that Gentiles should do pretty much the same in their own gentilish way, avoiding the appearance of being a Jew but not avoiding what all Orthodox Messianic Jews are supposed to do, again, in a gentilish way, and not doing any of it according to anyone’s halachah. Three of my Believing friends have, because of my example, begun to consider the Sabbath as a day of rest…but they do not do what I do, and I wouldn’t dare tell them how to do it, particularly when I can’t live up to what I want to do, again because of that dangerous idea of perfection I was taught even though I have never belonged to or attended a church regularly. It exists in all the writings about Christ and Christianity, and that is bad enough. Being ‘Zealous for the Law’ as the Apostles and first Believers in the Way I understand, but I will never know what a Jew is taught when raised as one, or converting to live within a community.
This is the Grace I live in, not to have to follow rules, but only the nudging of the Ruach haKodesh. I cannot come up as high as an Orthodox Messianic Jew can, but I didn’t begin properly, and have an impossible amount of gentilish corruption to dispose of as well. I do not live as a Jew because I am not a Jew. I am aiming for the state of a Messianic Ger Tsaddik, not an ‘Orthodox’ Messianic Ger Tsaddik, and I am glad to not have to do that. Still, it does not prevent the need to discuss what halachah is appropriate for an Orthodox Messianic Jew, since it is what informs our minds of the target others are reaching for, that we Gentiles, blessedly, by accident of birth, are not required to do until those same rules, regulations and halachah are decided by Yeshua at his return, and they are written inside of us.
Writing about how the Holy Spirit is inspiring you to choose what is valuable for a Gentile in Scripture, with only yourself, and the Ruach to decide on it is a practical description of Messianic Gentilism, and in your journey, I would think you would find a lot to talk about…except that it is all rather personal when you begin to chat about how you failed to live up to your ideas of what is righteous, and you might not want to write about it to us.
When it comes down to it, you have begun journaling while allowing total strangers to not only read about your discoveries, problems, and inspirations, but to critique what you have been saying about what you are finding. If you choose to discuss in future how hard it is to be finding that you are or are not doing what you want to do in becoming a Messianic Ger Tsaddikim, and not go anywhere near discussing what halachah you are choosing…well, that is allowing strangers to peer intimately around the corners of your life, and you might not want to do that.
I find that my failures in reaching my own idea of what is right and wrong is very difficult, and that I do not live up to my own benchmarks, once I set them…at least not consistently. However, I might bore people to death about the lashon hara I uttered today, or about having decided once again to ask a copyright holder for the use of their writings for my own purposes, much less using that copyright privilege to post elsewhere. Speaking about the fact that I actually did not do so again, and that if I had, it would have been an incident of theft, that I would have to do teshuvah about…and even, if possible, make sure that an apology was given for the use of the copyright, and deleting the material from my computer, etc., is an example of how deadly dull that might be.
This is also why I rarely lift up an issue in a forum or a blog these days, because I can’t think of what I might say that others do not say better. I react to, and comment on other’s ideas and questions simply because of that fact. I want to communicate my ideas and opinions in a discussion of other’s ideas and opinions because I enjoy discussing them. I do not want to find and document the ideas and concepts myself because I don’t know how to do that appropriately at the consistently high level of performance that you do.
You have been doing more than just commenting on what others say with a lot of added research, and an informed opinion backed by the appropriate scriptures, quotations, and footnotes. You bring forth to all of us what you are seeing in your walk, and what affects it, even to the point of the dilemna of what to write about as a professional writer does now that you have one of your main questions answered after years of searching it out. This is why your meditations are meditations and not mere comments on someone else’s ideas.
There is, though, I think still plenty for you to write about that is written elsewhere, by other well informed minds…how you agree with it and why, or why not, with the appropriate quotations, as a man seeking to be a Messianic Ger Tsaddik as opposed to a man trying to be an Orthodox Messianic Jew when he is a Gentile, and not able to go back to being one of those Christian Goyim that have absolutely no idea of where you have come from when you began at your first blog, much less this one. Your opinion of things and why you have that opinion is why the rest of us tune in whenever you write. We value it.
Discussing halachah for a Gentile is interesting to a point…but it is more meaningful to discuss where a Messianic Ger Tsaddik differs from an Orthodox Messianic Jew, not in halachah which seems somewhat irrelevant at this point in the discussion, but in ideas, concepts, and their inspiration within the Scriptures.
I think few if anyone lives up to their own ideals, Questor. It’s the striving toward those ideals that occupies our daily life.
Even if we choose to set aside any behavior that might seem to be Jewish, imagine making it through just one day without losing your temper at another person, even in the privacy of your own thoughts (such as how I sometimes think of other drivers on my commute to and from work). Imagine taking every opportunity to express an act of kindness and charity, such as not ignoring the homeless person panhandling on the sidewalk. Imagine (this one is probably more for guys than for gals) choosing to ignore the appearance of every attractive woman who might happen to enter your field of view rather than noticing their “attributes”. Imagine giving thanks to Hashem every single time you experience a blessing of any sort, including lunch, including arriving safely at your place of employment, including waking up in the morning or falling asleep at night.
I think most of us have our hands full just consistently obeying the very basic tenets of our faith. Adding other mitzvot on top of those is quite an effort.
That’s quite a beautiful photo at the top.
Thanks Marleen, though I can hardly take credit for it. Just something I found in a Google image search.