On Gentiles and Messianic Jews

I want to learn more about Judaism, but I don’t want to become Jewish. Well, in the way that Jesus meant, yes, I do want to be Jewish. In the way that Judaism is now, no, I don’t. I can’t give up Jesus.

It isn’t out of fear that I say that. Years ago it would have been easy to walk away from Christianity, and with it, Jesus. Years ago I thought I was Christian because I believed that Jesus was the son of God, was God in human form. I still believe that but there is so much more to it now. Now it seems like every month I get closer to understanding who Jesus is, not who he was.’

Because I see Jesus as alive and present in my life, I can’t cut him out of it. This wasn’t so ten years ago.

Part of how I’m coming to know Jesus is through his culture. If I made a friend from say, Uzbekistan, I’d try to learn more about her by learning more about where she came from. What are the foods, the dances, the songs that she grew up with? What are the values she was raised with? This will help me to understand her better. Her idioms will make more sense. Her habits won’t seem out of place to me. Sometimes, to understand “where someone is coming from” you actually have to understand where they are coming from.

Now, Jesus is Jewish. There is no way around that. He was born and lived as a Jew. So I want to learn more about Jewish culture.

I’ve been reading about Judaism but I want to experience it. It is the difference between reading a recipe versus actually cooking it. So I need to interact with people who are Jewish and participate in their customs, rituals, and holidays.

But the last thing I want to do is make them feel uncomfortable. It is super important that they understood that I’m not there to convert them, nor am I there to convert to becoming Jewish.

So I thought, how about a Messianic Jewish congregation? This seems ideal. Since I live in a major city there has to be one. I’ve found one listed online and it seems exactly what I want. These are Jews who see Jesus as the Messiah, yet retain the Jewish customs that are in harmony with Jesus’ teachings.

Now I have to admit that I’m a little amused by the term “Messianic Jew”. If you are from any background and you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, then you are Christian, by default, right? There are some people these days who are Christian and add extra adjectives to that term to separate themselves from mainstream Christians, but they are still Christian first. But I digress.

So this congregation looks ideal. And then I read the fine print. They say essentially they believe that Jews and Gentiles are equal, but Jews are more equal. Gentiles are welcome to worship with them, and have a role to play, but the role is to help convert more Jews to their side. But still, the Jews, by virtue of being Jews, are better.

I cannot handle that attitude. It isn’t in line with the teachings of Jesus at all.

Jesus erased all distinctions. In Jesus women and men are equal. All races are equal. There are no leaders or subordinates.

If they truly believe that there is a distinction between Jews who believe in Jesus and Gentiles who believe in Jesus, then they have missed the whole message of Jesus. It isn’t about blood, or genetics. It isn’t about history or ancestry. It isn’t about the past. It is all about the present. It is about who you are, right now, and how you have chosen to live your life. If you have accepted Jesus as the Messiah, then you are equal with every other person who has done the same.

On separation and inclusion.

The Jewish rules of kashrut, the kosher rules, were to ensure purity and separation. They were to keep the Jews safe from being diluted or dirty. The rules reminded them they were separate and special. There were other, similar rules that ensured that they kept apart from people who were not Jewish. These rules created lines of “us and them” and demarcated what was “other”.

Jesus came to erase those lines. He says that there are no distinctions between secular and sacred, between earthly and heavenly. He says in the lingo of today that “It’s all good”.

And it is all good. God looked at the world after he made it and said it was good. God made and continues to make the world. If we believe in a good and loving God, we have to believe that God will only make good things, and that includes people.

They may not seem good to us at the time. They may in fact seem very bad and broken. But if we have accepted Jesus into our hearts and lives, we have to believe that they are in fact good at the core, because Jesus believes that.

Jesus came to say that nothing is broken and nothing is dirty. Jesus came to say that everything is safe. Jesus showed us by getting right in the middle of the world that it is safe.

Jesus touched lepers and didn’t get leprosy. By touching them, he not only healed their condition, he healed their relationship with the community. They were no longer excluded.

Jesus says that when we separate ourselves, when we play it safe, we aren’t being love made visible. He says we aren’t showing trust in God as a loving God when we exclude others.

Jesus came to join together heaven and earth, God and humans. Jesus came to heal all divisions. When we divide, when we exclude, when we limit, we are not being like Jesus. We are operating out of fear instead of love. We are saying that our decisions keep us safe. We are saying that rules keep us safe.

When we do this, we are taking our lives into our own hands instead of putting them in God’s hands.