Tag Archives: service

Living a Life

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of being a Christian or a Gentile disciple of Rav Yeshua, or whatever you want to call me.

My life has taken a downturn recently, specifically since April. I was laid off of my job of eight years, basically because the company and my job description had changed so radically that I was no longer an adequate “fit”.

dad
© James Pyles

Then my Dad died abruptly, and it was fortunate that I happened to be visiting my folks at the time to be able to support my Mom.

So far the only job I’ve been able to get is temporary contract work for significantly less than I was previously paid and absolutely no benefits.

I’ve been trying for the past couple of months to get medical insurance through the local version of “Obamacare” (Affordable Care Act) and getting the run around. I received yet another encrypted email from them when I got home from work today that was probably prompted by my zillionth phone call to them this morning. I suspect they are about to reject, for some arcane reason, the document I submitted proving I’ve been without medical coverage since July 1st.

And to add insult to injury, I’m fined by the Federal Government every month I’m not insured, even though I’m trying as hard as I can to purchase coverage.

What does all this have with God, faith, and religion?

It has to do with life and how we live it, and more specifically, how I live it.

I’ll admit that I’m better at the study of the Bible then actually living out its principles. I suspect that my life has been going downhill because God is trying to get my attention. He wants something out of me. He wants me to live a better life, but it’s not that simple.

God doesn’t make deals. He doesn’t say, “If you do this thing for me, I’ll make your life better and you and your wife will get health insurance coverage.”

How do I know this? Because tons and tons and tons of believers of great and wonderful faith live terribly dangerous and difficult lives. Just look at the Apostles. Except for John, they all were executed in one way or another, and even John was thrown into a vat of boiling oil, though amazingly he lived.

That’s been my sticking point. If you trust in God with all your heart and soul, there’s still no promise that you’ll escape pain and suffering. There’s no promise that if I trust God with all my heart and soul, that I’ll be able to provide my wife and myself medical insurance let alone a better income.

I mean God could do that, but obviously He doesn’t have to.

On the other hand, if I ignore what I think God wants me to do (love and trust Him completely), then I can hardly expect He will turn my life around or provide opportunities for me to improve my condition.

No I’m not writing this just to whine (well, maybe just a little). I’m writing this to speak to the question of Gentile praxis in a Messianic world (or at least a Messianic thought and study world since I don’t have that kind of praxis or community).

In the closed Facebook group “Messianic Gentiles,” First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) writer and teacher Toby Janicki has been sharing a number of articles on their particular publication of the Didache, which may or may not have originated with the Apostles or their students. It’s an attempt to answer the question of what is Gentile praxis within (Messianic) Judaism.

I certainly won’t discourage anyone from reading and pursuing that particular model of religious practice, and indeed, I’ve written on the Didache myself.

But it seems to me that all of us have our hands full anyway, not with the rituals of praxis but with day-to-day living.

I mean, how close to or far from God do you feel? How often do you read the Bible? How often do you pray? How often do you pray and don’t feel like you’re just taking to yourself and the four walls? Are you kind to others even when you don’t feel like it? Do you yell at the person who cuts you off when you’re driving to work? Given the terrible things that are happening in Huston thanks to Hurricane Harvey, what have you done to offer aid and assistance? Do you give to others in need in your local community?

huston
David J. Phillip/AP

These aren’t questions I’m asking you, they’re questions I’m asking myself.

A life of faith is no life at all if it isn’t lived, but frankly, living that life isn’t easy.

I’ve been trying to listen to Christian radio again (mainly because there’s no such thing as Messianic Jewish/Gentile radio, at least nothing that is freely available over the airwaves). I’m having a hard time with it.

Air1 at least has more modern pop songs, but it’s also marketing to the younger crowd, and it can be terribly juvenile and even shallow. On the other hand, they have mentioned their concern for the people of Huston, and I learned about Convoy of Hope from them.

I’ve tried listening to a couple of local Christian stations.

I have a tough time with the more traditional Christian songs and hymns. I had the same problem when I was attending church. The people who’ve grown up in the church have a great deal of emotional and nostalgic attachment to those tunes, but to me, they are terribly archaic and boring.

The Christian station where people talk drives me nuts. I guess this is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and I was listening to these two Pastors who were fairly gushing over Martin Luther. I can’t stand Martin Luther because of the Anti-Semitism he displayed toward the end of his life. This is on top of these so-called “reformers” not taking their reform back far enough in history so they could re-discover the deep connection Gentile believers have to a Jewish perspective on Hashem and Rav Yeshua.

Those “reformers” just changed things enough to object to some of the greater abuses of the Catholic church as it existed at that time. They kept all the stuff that deleted the Judaism out of an originally Jewish faith, and kept all the stuff that put Gentiles and only Gentiles at the top of the religious food chain.

Yeah, that works for me.

But I’ve got to do something differently, even if it drives me nuts. Frankly, I suspect there are a lot of non-Jewish but Judaically aware believers who are also scrambling to make sense of their/our lives. My point isn’t that the hard part of it all is being “Judaically aware,” the hard part is what’s hard for every Christian in churches and home fellowships all over the place.

The hard part is conforming our lives, our faith, and our actions to the desires of God. The hard part is to be a better person, even when it seems impossible. The hard part is to be a better person, even when God doesn’t promise to do anything for you in return.

This isn’t about where you go when you die, which is the shallow and simple-minded version of the “good news”. This is about who you are and what you do right here and now in this life. This is the “Gospel message” you absolutely won’t hear on Christian radio ever, and a message you won’t hear in many if not most churches.

jfk
President John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy once famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country” (and he’d be appalled if he were alive today and could see the nature of the younger generation coming up and what they want).

But what if he asked works in a relationship with God, too?

“Ask not what God can do for you. Ask what you can do for God.”

Really, if responding to that doesn’t take up 100% of your time, I don’t know what will. Frankly, the prospect scares me to death, but at the same time, I can’t fault it, since this is what the Bible speaks of regarding our service to God and our fellow human beings.

I suspect, even if nothing else changes in my life, my response, if I choose to sincerely make true Teshuvah, will occupy every day I have remaining in this life.

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Dimming the Divine Light

Our teacher the Baal Shem Tov said: Every single thing one sees or hears is an instruction for his conduct in the service of G-d. This is the idea of avoda, service, to comprehend and discern in all things a way in which to serve G-d.

-Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe;
Translation by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

If only we could keep this in mind throughout our days and nights, in the midst of our conversations, and particularly when we “talk” to each other on the Web. But it seems that each disagreement, each challenge, is an excuse to forget about how all experiences are instructions for how to serve God, even as we believe we are serving God.

I suppose I could cite the Baltimore riots since it’s all over the news and social media just now, but a sense of powerlessness, fear, rage, and violence is what has fueled this latest conflagration.

And that has little or nothing to do with us as a community and how we are to serve God.

I know that we people of faith are also just people and we often use that as an excuse for our own outbursts (though thankfully, they’re not on the same order or scale as the aforementioned-rioting). Still, when we argue and particularly, when we go out of our way to tear down a fellow disciple, then we have borne witness to how far the ekklesia of Messiah has fallen in an already fallen world.

I don’t hold myself as some sterling example. I have failed God and my comrades in the Messiah’s “body” in many ways. I simply am astonished that, on the one hand, we have such wonderful words and sentiments to use as examples, such as the quote I begin this blog post with, and on the other hand, who we are and how we actually behave as flesh and blood people attempting, however poorly, to live the life we were born to live.

Show a mighty emperor the world and ask him where he most desires to conquer. He will spin the globe to the furthest peninsula of the most far-flung land, stab his finger upon it and declare, “This! When I have this, then I shall have greatness!”

So too, the Infinite Light. In those places most finite, where the light of day barely trickles in, there is found His greatest glory.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Conquest”
Chabad.org

As little pieces of the Divine Light, we are to conquer the world by shining our light into every corner of it, replacing darkness with illumination.

But how are we supposed to do that when we can’t even conquer the yetzer hara within ourselves?

Be Perfect On Earth and in Heaven

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Walk in My ways and be blameless.”

Genesis 17:1 (JPS Tanakh)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV)

Another translation of “be blameless” from Genesis 17:1 is “be perfect,” such as we see the Master instructing his students (including us) in Matthew 5:48. But how is this possible, especially when Paul wrote:

…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one…

Romans 3:10 (ESV)

What does it mean to “be perfect?” I used to think this was one of the great mysteries of the Bible, but perhaps there is an answer after all.

If a human being cannot be perfect, why did God demand perfection of Abraham?

The entire context of the verse indicates both the definition of this perfection and the way in which it can be achieved. It is obvious that no human being can aspire to equal God’s degree of perfection. What man can achieve is to live according to God’s teachings and thereby live up to his own human potential; more than man’s personal maximum is not possible or expected. Thus, God did not say simply, “Be perfect”; He said, “Walk before Me and thereby you will be perfect.” When a person tries to live according to the Divine teachings, that constitutes human perfection, although one is technically never perfect.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch notes that the Hebrew word for “walk” in the above verse is not telech but heshalech which implies, “Go your way in spite of opposition, not making your progress dependent on external circumstances, but being led from within yourself: Let your movement proceed from your own free-willed decisions.”

The picture is now complete; human perfection can be achieved by making a free-willed choice to live according to the Divine teaching.

Today I shall…

try to realize that although I cannot be absolutely without flaw, I can be perfect if I make free-will decisions to obey the Divine will.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Cheshvan 6”
Aish.com

We all make choices. Every day, we make choices. Sure, some of those choices involve making mistakes, but we continue to strive, like Jacob, struggling with God and with our lives, to do better; to be better today than we were the day before. Of course, observant Jews and Christians have different ideas of what one must do to please God and to stand before the Throne of the Almighty as “perfect.” For Jews, it is an adherence to the mitzvot of the Torah, the study of Torah, and prayer. For Christians, prayer is a large component, as is Bible study, but most importantly, is the belief in the person and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. None of this makes us “perfect” people, but it does represent a journey that we each take upon ourselves, to seek God, even as He is also our traveling companion.

Somewhere in-between the doing and the experiencing of God is where we are supposed to be walking.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first rebbe of the Lubavitch dynasty, led the services for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. He stood wrapped in his prayer shawl, profoundly entranced in the cleaving of the soul to its source. Every word of prayer he uttered was fire. His melody and fervor carried the entire community off to the highest and the deepest journey of the spirit.

And then he stopped. He turned, cast off his prayer shawl and left the synagogue. With a bewildered congregation chasing behind, he walked briskly to the outskirts of town, to a small dark house from where was heard the cry of a newborn infant. The rabbi entered the house, chopped some wood and lit a fire in the oven, boiled some soup and cared for the mother and child who lay helpless in bed.

Then he returned to the synagogue and to the ecstasy of his prayer.

The Rebbe added:

Note that the rabbi removed his prayer shawl. To help someone, you must leave your world, no matter how serene, to enter the place where that person lives.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“A Story”
A favorite story of the Rebbe, central to his activist view of life
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Aish.com

Whether you’re Christian or Jewish (or anyone else), the actions of Rabbi Zalman are bound to seem strange, but if you are aware of the extreme solemn devotion and majesty of the Yom Kippur service, certainly the most Holy Day on the Jewish calendar, then imagining the Rabbi abruptly throwing off his tallit in the middle of services, walking out of the synagogue, even in order to care for a newborn infant and his mother, probably seems startling and even shocking.

But what is it to be perfect? Is it entering into an ecstatic holy state of prayer, speaking in tongues, or other mystical or metaphysical experience that brings us closer to the Divine, or is it extending ourselves back outward, away from what we think we want or need, in order to serve someone who has greater needs than ours?

I suppose you could make the argument that it’s both, since after Rabbi Zalman finished his work at the new mother’s home, “he returned to the synagogue and to the ecstasy of his prayer.” On the other hand, he was willing to abandon, however temporarily, the “ecstasy of his prayer” in the middle of worship services on the Holiest day of the year, and perform a servile duty to the lowliest of God’s creatures in their helplessness. It would be as if a Christian Pastor, right in the middle of leading Easter services, were to suddenly stop, walk out of church, and perform the identical action for a new mother and her infant, then go back to church and pick up where he left off.

What would the parishioners think of what he did? Then again, what would God think?

Every person is a microcosm of the entire Creation. When a person brings harmony between his G‑dly soul and his material life, he brings harmony between the whole of heaven and earth.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Microhealing”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

What is it to be perfect? That’s not an easy question to answer. And yet we see that a significant portion of the answer is to strive to obey God and to bring harmony between our “G-dly soul” and our “material life.” The challenge is to find the balance between the two and to continually struggle to not let one overwhelm the other. We cannot serve Him in the material world without being attached to Him as He is in Heaven. But our service to Him in Heaven, so to speak, serves no one unless it is expressed here on Earth.

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:9-10 (ESV)

Uncomfortably Serving God

No person can know his own inner motives.

He may be kind because kindness brings him pleasure.

He may be wise because wisdom is music to his soul.

He may become a martyr burned in fire because his nature is to defy, his nature is to be fire.

When can you know that your motives are sincere? Only when it is not within your nature to do this thing.

And how do you know that it is not within your nature? Only when you travel two opposite paths at once.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Real Motives”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

This is exactly how I can tell God is working in my life; by how uncomfortable He makes me. I’ve always found it very interesting that some Christians “confirm” the wishes of the Holy Spirit in their decision making process by how much “peace” they feel after praying about a decision. Their peaceful emotional state somehow tells them that they’ve made a decision (regardless of the situation) that is in accordance to the will of God. And yet we see from Rabbi Freeman’s statement above, that people can feel “at peace” with various decisions or actions, not because their motives are pure and perhaps not even because what they are doing lines up with God’s wishes, but just because those decisions and actions are “natural” for that person.

You could argue, probably successfully, that God created us with natures that allow us to serve Him within the activities associated with our natures, but that seems somehow limiting, especially when the needs of the world are so great and so varied.

Here’s an example.

I hate going to hospitals. They kind of creep me out (I think I’ve mentioned this somewhere before). So it’s not easy for me to go to a hospital and visit a sick person. And yet, it’s a commandment of Jesus that we visit the sick. It’s far easier for me to obey the commandment to feed the hungry, because I have no emotional resistance to donating a bunch of canned goods to my local food bank. But would I volunteer to work the kitchen at my local homeless shelter once a week? Gee, I dunno.

And that’s my point. Not that we have to make ourselves serve God only in ways that trigger our discomfort, but we also need to keep in mind that those uncomfortable opportunities God plops directly in our paths to help people, are the very ones we need to do if we want to be called disciples of Jesus (as opposed to “believers” whose only fruit is to “believe”). That makes serving God a lot less approachable for many of us. I’ve heard Christians praying to Jesus to help them be more like him and wondered what would happen if God really gave them the opportunity to do so. I’m sure some people would rise to the occasion, but how many others, when it actually happened to them, would say something like, “Hey wait! This isn’t what I had in mind!”

Sure. We all want to serve God. We just want to serve Him our way and to be really cool and comfortable while doing so.

Uh-huh. Let me know how that works out for you.

Here’s another perspective:

Teshuvas B’tzeil Hachochmah suggests that our Gemara is a proof to Gaon Chida’s position. The Mishnah teaches that one who made an erech vow while wealthy and before fulfilling his vow lost his wealth remains obligated to fulfill his vow as someone who is wealthy and he is not appraised by the kohen as one who vowed when poor whose obligation is discounted in accordance with his means. Tosafos Yom Tov asserts that they will take from the person what he has towards his vow and the remaining amount will remain a debt that he will fulfill when he acquires the necessary funds. The question is how they could collect from him only part of his obligation if it may turn out that he will never have the necessary funds to pay off this debt. If that were to happen he will have never fulfilled his pledge and there was no reason to have taken funds from him in the first place. It must be that even partial fulfillment is considered fulfillment of the mitzvah and that is why they will collect from him what they can even though they may never collect the remainder.

Daf Yomi Digest
Halacha Highlight
“Fulfilling only part of a mitzvah”
Arachin 17

OK, all that might be difficult to understand, so let me boil it down a bit. If you decided to serve God out of your strengths, such as having a lot of money, and something should happen unexpectedly to make that service a lot more difficult, are you still obligated to fulfill your commitment to God? After all, you said you’d do it and presumably, you made a commitment. Are you absolved of your commitment because you misunderstood how God wanted you to satisfy the requirements of the task or because you realized that you didn’t have enough money in your bank account to cover costs?

The Rabbinic sages debate the matter and conclude that you only have to do the best you can. If you promised to donate $1,000 to the food bank but you only have $500, then you pay the $500 and it’s as if you paid the full amount. If you promised to pray for the sick each morning without fail for the next week, but you woke up late for work two days out of seven and had to rush off without praying, then praying for the sick for only five days fulfills your promise.

Gee, you can see why Jesus said this.

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. –Matthew 5:33-37 (ESV)

Of course, that doesn’t cover those unanticipated “requests” from God to serve Him that you never saw coming across the horizon. What about those areas when you want to serve God as a “prayer warrior” for an hour each day just after lunch, but instead, on your commute into work, He wants you to help a mother trying to get her sick baby to the doctor’s office by changing her flat tire? The answer is you do the best you can, and if you can’t change a flat tire, you use your cell to call your brother-in-law who works for a tow truck company to drive over and help out.

You do the best you can, which doesn’t have to be perfect. You do the best you can, even though you are really uncomfortable doing it. You do the best you can, even though sometimes God asks you to do things that make you want to crawl out of your skin.

At least you know that when you’ve served God under those conditions, it wasn’t because you were serving yourself.

Serving God

The Rebbe of Sanz-Klausenberg, shlit”a, gave a very inspiring talk based on a statement on today’s daf. “The Rokeach writes that one should prepare himself with cheshbon hanefesh and teshuvah before fulfilling a mitzvah; he should beg God that he merit to do the mitzvah as is fitting, without feelings of self-aggrandizement. Some would even fast before fulfilling certain mitzvos. The reason for these extra exertions is that a mitzvah done with genuine feeling as it should be makes huge rectifications in the upper worlds. Obviously there are many barriers that block the way of the person who wishes to reach this pinnacle. The least we can do before performing a mitzvah is to beg God for help.

“Now we can understand why, although it was a printer’s decision, every tractate in the Talmud begins with a shaar blatt, a page with a gateway, and then starts on a page marked as number two. Tzaddikim always petition God for help to learn and do mitzvos. They plead with God: ‘I know in my heart that I am not as I should be. I have done much wrong. Nevertheless, You God are gracious and merciful. I therefore plead with You to help me serve You in truth.’ The first page is the gateway: we enter into the gates of learning Torah lishmah by begging God for His aid. Only after entering this gateway can we begin the actual tractate on page two.

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Seeking the Laws of Pesach”
Bechoros 58

According to Rabbi Daniel Gordis in his book God Was Not in the Fire (pg 132), most people understand the word “mitzvah” to mean “good deed” when the better translation is “commandment”. He states that, “Doing a mitzvah might well be nice, but – perhaps surprisingly -Judaism values it not only for its “kindness” but for its “commandedness” as well.” This might go some of the distance in explaining how we can understand the Jewish value of asking; in fact, all but begging for God’s help in performing a mitzvah, even to the point to fasting and praying beforehand. For a Christian, this may seem way over the top and far too formal a process. If you feel moved to donate canned food to the local food bank, volunteer at the homeless shelter, or visit a sick friend in the hospital, can’t you just do that without all the preliminary activity suggested by the Rebbe of Sanz-Klausenberg?

Rabbi Gordis says that many Jews feel this way, too and resist “what they see as Judaism’s tendency to regulate too many elements of life.” I think that’s one of the reasons Christians and many “Messianics” are critical of the “man-made rules” contained in Talmud and the principle of halacha. After all, does this vast collection of minute details really matter to God? Isn’t He pleased if we just do His will without all the ceremony involved? Rabbi Gordis offers one possible answer.

Yet as much as it sounds reasonable to wonder whether God really cares about the details, these specific elements of Jewish life are often important not necessarily because God cares about them, but because we need them. It is through our attention to detail, tradition claims, that we express what Judaism called a sense of “commandedness,” a sense that we behave in a certain way in order to construct a relationship with God. Mitzvah is designed not to make unnecessary limitations on our privacy and autonomy, but to express the idea that if we wish to feel God’s presence, we need to evoke that feeling in action.

This is what Christians would probably call “works-based religion”. A Christian “believes” and “feels” God through faith while a Jew “obeys” and “acts” on their faith. I suppose this is as good a place as any to (again) invoke James 2:14-26 including the very famous verse 17: “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. “ The specific formalities of Judaism in preparing to perform a mitzvah and then the specific manner in which the mitzvah is accomplished may not actually matter to God, but that ritual and ceremony provides meaning and structure in the life of a religious Jew (and this isn’t the first time I’ve talked about how important ritual and tradition is in a life of faith).

I suspect that one of the primary reasons why many “Gentile Messianics” resist Talmud and halacha when attempting to emulate a Jewish lifestyle, is not that the traditions were constructed by human beings, but that the traditions were constructed by Jews for Jews for the specific purpose of Jewish performance of Torah “commandedness”. Many non-Jews are attracted to Torah as a means of having a closer walk with God through the commandments, but they resist a fully Jewish experience with those commandments (because it is too Jewish).

Derek Leman wrote a multi-part series called Not Jewish yet Drawn to Torah (the link goes to part 1) addressing this dynamic in much detail. Leman doesn’t criticize Gentile attraction to the mitzvot but rather the approach that allows Christians (including “Gentile Messianics”) to approach the Torah with a casualness that Judaism doesn’t understand and finds offensive. Christians, particularly in the West, tend to think of their faith as only involving Jesus and the individual (“Just me and Jesus”). Judaism, though acknowledging the individual relationship, is much more about community and being a people under God, rather than an individual under God. Leman presents “Lessons Learned from Past Mistakes” illustrating some of this problem:

You should know that many have walked the path before you. And many have found some unhelpful paths and can warn you not to try them.

The major problem many Torah-seeking gentiles have run into is very similar to the problem of shallowness in much evangelical Christianity: individualism run amok.

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN SHALLOWNESS = “The gospel is about me and my salvation.” Read some N.T. Wright, like Justification or Surprised by Hope or After You Believe.

TORAH-SEEKING GENTILE SHALLOWNESS = “The Torah is about me and my status with God.” Read some medieval commentators and Jewish theologians, would you? Learn the depth.

A BETTER PATH = Learn slowly and carefully. Think before jumping into things. Consider that God has a plan for the whole world, through Israel, to redeem. How does Torah fit into that? What is your place in God’s plan?

While Christianity doesn’t share an equal and identical covenant identity with the Jews, we do operate from the same “core values:”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” –Matthew 22:37-40

If we, as Gentile believers, feel drawn to perform some additional mitzvot on a voluntary basis, and beyond what is required by Jesus, in order to further honor God, we need to respectfully approach how best to prepare for the experience of offering that service. While there is no mandate to flawlessly imitate a Jewish person, we can still attempt to take our actions a little more seriously and inject more formality into the process, not because God needs it, but because we need to be reminded that any action performed in His Name should invoke respect and awe of God.

Christianity and Judaism do share mandates to perform some of the same mitzvot, the actions I typically quote in many of my blogs, to feed the hungry, visit the sick and the prisoner, clothe the unclothed, and to welcome the stranger. In doing those deeds, why shouldn’t we as Christians, allow ourselves to perceive the incredible responsibility God has placed in our hands to serve Him and to serve others? Doesn’t that deserve a little formality and ceremony? Shouldn’t we ask for God’s aid in performing duties done in His Name? Aren’t these types of details there to help us, too? Let us remember these words and say them in truth to God:

I know in my heart that I am not as I should be. I have done much wrong. Nevertheless, You God are gracious and merciful. I therefore plead with You to help me serve You in truth.