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Do Messianic Jews Hate Christians?

fire-breathingThat’s a rather inflammatory title and it doesn’t really communicate everything I’m about to say, but I had to start somewhere.

Please, brothers and sisters, do not listen to the false teachings of “First Fruit of Zion” and Boaz Michael or anyone from the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations. You are NOT meant to stay in church on a permanent basis. You know this: doesn’t your spirit grieve there? I know that it does! Because my spirit grieves there too!

The Prophetic Expectation is that Non-Jews will grab hold of a Jew (in a nice way of course) and start down a path to learning the Torah of Moses (Acts 15:21).

I want to help the Christians in churches but my spirit cannot take it there much longer. And I’ll not have my daughter identifying with those who hate our Judaic heritage. May Heaven protect her from the spirit of lawlessness! And may G-d protect her bashert!

“The Prophets vs. Boaz Michael: A Brief Look at the Prophetic Expectation for Non-Jews in the “Day” of the New Covenant Age”

I’m doing this against my better judgment. I know I could be letting myself be baited by someone you could think of as a troll. On the other hand, it disturbs me that so much disinformation is being spread, not only regarding the Messianic Jewish movement, Jewish people, and Judaism, but about a specific individual, namely Boaz Michael, and the organization which he founded and leads, First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ).

I know, this is a heck of a thing for me to post right before Shabbos and just days before I travel to Hudson, WI to attend the FFOZ Shavuot conference. The thing is though, I have a problem when I encounter what I believe to be injustice. I really don’t like bullies (though on occasion I feel sorry for some of them). But they need to be confronted. This has to stop.

What’s interesting about the blog owner I quote above and a number of the people who support his ideas, is that they not only appear to oppose the Messianic Jewish movement but the Christian church as well. That doesn’t leave many places left to look for believers.

As you can see from Peter’s words above, it’s as if Christians and the Protestant church are at least inferior to him/them if not down right opposed to the Word and will of God. On top of that, the very idea that the Jewish people within the Messianic Jewish movement might want to actually retain their own Jewish identity and uniqueness seems an undesirable outcome to them.

Do Messianic Jews Reject Christians?

There is a concern that, in order to be viewed as a legitimate branch of modern Judaism within the larger normative Jewish community, Messianic Jewish synagogues must expel all non-Jewish members and attendees. That seems odd, since most of the authentic Messianic groups of which I’m aware have a majority membership of non-Jewish worshipers. Furthermore if David Rudolph’s and Joel Willitts’ landmark book Introduction to Messianic Judaism (IMJ) can be taken at face value, then not only are Christians welcome within the ranks of Messianic Judaism, Christians and non-Jewish members of Messianic synagogues are absolutely required for the health of the body of Messiah!

Don’t believe me? I wrote eleven extensive reviews of different articles (the book has twenty-six different Jewish and Christian contributors) presented in the book which are collected on my blogspot. That single link leads to a page where you can review any or all of them.

On top of that, Pastor Jacob Fronczak, who periodically blogs for FFOZ, wrote an excellent review of the book, which takes much less time to read than my eleven missives. The upshot of all of those reviews and my experience in reading the book, not to mention my experience interacting with Messianic Jews, is that I am, as a church going Christian, not being set to one side as if I’m the left-handed, red-headed, foster child in the family. The fact that I’ve been invited for a second time to FFOZ’s Shavuot conference seems to indicate that I am welcome within their ranks.

If Messianic Jews were uncomfortable about the message having Christians attending their services and conferences is going to send to the other Judaisms in the world, you’d never know it by how many Christians actually attend their services and conferences.

No, I don’t feel rejected by Messianic Judaism, nor do I feel like a second-class citizen in Messianic Jewish groups or when I attend my local church. I don’t feel like Boaz Michael is treating me poorly by suggesting, both in his book Tent of David and personally as my friend, that I explore a church worship experience. After all, he and his wife Amber regularly attend a Baptist church in their own community when Boaz isn’t traveling. IMJ author and editor Joel Willitts regularly attends a Christian church in Chicago. And yet he is also close friends with IMJ co-editor David Rudolph and if they experience any dissonance in their personal and professional relationship, I couldn’t tell by reading their book.

churchesI doubt Messianic Judaism as an overarching concept and organization is perfect. I doubt each individual synagogue or all of the individual people who attend said-synagogues are perfect.

There probably are some Messianic Jews who have “issues” with large numbers of Gentile attendees in their synagogues. There are probably some who prefer a largely Jewish community rather than a largely Gentile community. I don’t blame them. Traditionally, any Jew who has publicly professed Jesus as Savior, Lord, and Messiah has been labeled a “Christian” by Jewish community and family and typically ostracized.

Also historically, the Christian church has typically required any Jew who “professes Christ” to surrender all Jewish worship and lifestyle practices and essentially to become a “goy.” If I were Jewish, I wouldn’t like that either (and having been married to a Jewish wife for 31 years, I have a little insight into that world).

So I, a Christian who goes to a small Baptist church in a suburban community in Southwestern Idaho, don’t feel rejected or pushed away by Messianic Judaism, nor have I ever gotten the impression that Messianic Judaism disdains the other Judaisms or Christianity.

Do Hebrew Roots Groups Hate Messianic Jews and Christians?

But what about Hebrew Roots or the subgroup in which Peter (and I really dislike calling out individuals for a “spitting contest” but sometimes enough is enough) purports to represent? How do they feel about Jews and how do they feel about “Christians?”

To be fair, every Hebrew Roots person I’ve ever met says they love Jews and they love Israel. I don’t doubt it. However, whenever Jews in the Messianic movement register distress at Hebrew Roots Christians mimicking Jewish religious and identity behaviors, typically Hebrew Roots people accuse the Jewish people of racism and exclusionism and other unpleasant things, seizing the “right,” based on various scriptures, to move into the Jewish space and claim everything in that space for Gentile use as “sharers” of all the “stuff.” It’s kind of like having your neighbors burst through your front door, raid your fridge for a beer, say that they’re moving in, and you have to “share” your stuff (food, bed, clothes, toothbrush) with them forever…and you don’t have a say in the matter.

Doesn’t sound very loving.

Actually, I’m more concerned about Hebrew Roots attitudes towards Christians and Christian churches. Granted, “the church” in all its iterations across history, has a rather poor track record in terms of supersessionism, pogroms, inquisitions and the like relative to the Jewish people, but that is slowly changing. However, regardless of how you feel about Christianity, no other group has kept the teachings of Jesus and his apostles and disciples intact for the past twenty centuries, just as the Jews have kept the Shabbat, the Torah, the Prophets, and the teachings of the sages for the sake of Israel and Hashem for as long and longer (much longer).

Most “Messianic Gentiles” I know in the Hebrew Roots movement go to church, at least occasionally. Most Hebrew Roots people who are Jewish (with either a Jewish mother, Jewish father, or both), are intermarried and some of their spouses self-identify as Christian and at least occasionally go to church. Many of the Hebrew Roots Jews and Gentiles have Christian family members and Christian in-laws, so it’s not like they are isolated entirely from Christian influences.

But when Hebrew Roots people characterize the Church as “Babylon” (which I’ve personally heard some of them say) or claim Christians are “lawless” or say they hate the “Judaic heritage” of Christianity, I take offense. Of all the non-Jews who claim to “keep the Torah,” the fact remains that probably over ninety percent of Gentiles who keep the weightier matters of the Law are church going Christians. Church going Christians donate food to the hungry, donate time in homeless shelters, donate time in food banks, visit the sick in hospitals, participate in prison ministries, mow the lawns of disabled people, shovel snow off the drives and sidewalks of the infirm and elderly in the winter, comfort the grief-stricken person whose spouse has just died of cancer.

I know Christian people who perform each of the mitzvot I’ve just listed and I’ve performed at least some myself as a “church going Christian.” If that’s not Torah, what is?

I have complained about my church experience in the past and I probably will in the future. It’s tough to get used to a new “culture” and the different ways people think about and do things within that culture. I also have been significantly challenged as far as my beliefs and my knowledge, particularly by the head Pastor of my church, who is highly intelligent, extremely well-read, who is fluent in Biblical Greek and Biblical and modern Hebrew (and other languages), who has lived in Israel for fifteen years, who maintains close friendships with Israeli Jews (believers and non-believers), and who vehemently opposes supersessionism and anti-Semitism in all their forms.

No, we don’t agree on everything, but I have to say that even when going “toe-to-toe” on some issue, I always encounter great integrity and respect in our transactions and never, ever have I been insulted, slighted, or treated poorly even to the smallest degree.

I can’t always say the same for many of my internet dialogues with “fellow brothers in Messiah.”

changing-courseI’m not writing this to change anyone’s mind. I know that’s probably useless. I’m saying this to show those people who think like me that you’re not alone. I’m saying that it’s possible to be a Christian, go to church, and still have close associations and friendships with Jews, both those who are Messianic and those who aren’t. I’m trying to see the best in people. That’s a Jewish and a Christian value. If that’s not your value, then maybe you need to re-evaluate what you believe and why? If you don’t love someone because they belong to a particular religious group, then maybe you need to reconsider whose teachings you’re actually following.

Dear Peter

You won’t like this, but I feel deeply sorry for you, Peter. I think sometimes you see yourself as the victim of both Messianic Jewish people and Christian people. I know you want to be accepted for the person you are and you really need to be right and to have others agree that you’re right.

You were right about one thing. You challenged me (on Gene’s blog I think) to get off the fence and go back to church. After all, you were attending a church and it was (I guess it’s not anymore) working for you and your family. You were right. I went back to church and it was the right thing to do. After a number of “settling in” struggles, I’m beginning to find my legs, so to speak. The transition period isn’t over yet, but I feel myself integrating into the community somewhat. I’m learning a lot of new things. My Pastor, as I said above, is a great person to talk to and he asks questions that aren’t always easy to answer. Those are really great questions.

And he’s willing listen and consider my point of view about the Messianic Jewish movement and how the modern movement connects back to the New Testament Jewish believers. If I had stayed in Hebrew Roots, as comfortable as it was and as much as I still love the people I fellowshiped with, I wouldn’t have learned any more than what I knew back then. Change is growth and I’ve changed and grown a lot. I’m not done yet.

So thank you for that.

One thing that is absolutely required in order to understand someone, in order to talk with someone, in order to learn from every person you meet, no matter who they are, is that you can’t continually feel like you are someone’s victim. When you always expect to be victimized, whether by Jewish people who are Messianics or non-Jewish people who go to church, the only response you can have is to become defensive and then to attack in order to protect yourself. No one learns a thing from someone if they are afraid of being attacked and are responding in kind.

The only reason I’m engaging you is that I see potential in you. I know, based on what you’ve blogged, that you have had some rough experiences in your life and you feel as if you’ve been treated unfairly. Most of what you blog about is a response from that position. If I thought you were just a jerk, you’d never hear from me again. I don’t think you’re a jerk but most of the time, it’s hard to tell the difference between a hurt and angry person and a bully. Because of that, I urge you to reconsider what you’re doing. It can’t turn out well. It never turns out well. It doesn’t communicate love for Jewish people and for Israel. It doesn’t communicate love for your brothers and sisters in the church, particularly those who are in the church you currently attend.

I don’t know what else to say to you, Peter. I don’t know what else to say to the thousands upon thousands of people out there like you who feel like you do…who feel like the church is their enemy…who feel like the church lied to them…betrayed them…kept the truth from them…people who feel like their Pastor or their friends in the church hurt them.

held-in-gods-handsMisunderstandings are only corrected through relationship and dialogue, but those conversations absolutely cannot be based on hostility, competition, or the desire to defeat or destroy the person you are speaking with. Until you reach the point where you can talk to people who you disagree with and not see it as a battle, you will never go any further in your path of faith or your walk with Messiah than the spot where you’re standing right now.

I know this won’t change you. As I write it, I hope it changes me so that I can be as compassionate as I want to be toward you and toward those who criticize me and disagree with me. I know God doesn’t love one of us and hate the other. Otherwise, why send Messiah to die for the whole world?

I don’t hate Jews. I don’t hate Christians. I don’t hate Hebrew Roots people (One Law, Two House, or anyone else). How could I when I know that even when I was Messiah’s enemy, he died for me? He displayed a love for an unbelieving and hostile humanity that he was willing to die for. Shouldn’t we try to live up to that, at least a little bit? We don’t have to die for each other (although we may be called to one day), but we can try to put down the boxing gloves, knives, and machine guns (all metaphors for our online arguments) and just talk.

Tuesday afternoon, I’m going to be showing up at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson. There’s going to be a lot of people there. Some will be Christians. Some will be Jews. A lot will call themselves by different labels and titles. We probably won’t agree about everything we talk about. But we all have Messiah in common. That’s a start.

“Optimism is essential to achievement and it is also the foundation of courage and true progress.”

-Nicholas Murray Butler, American diplomat and educator

138 days.