One New Man – still waiting in the wings?
Rabbi Saul of Tarsus wrote that Jesus’s purpose was to create ‘one new man’ out of the Jews, the ‘Kingdom of priests’ (Exodus 19:6) and the Gentiles, ‘foreigners to the covenants’ (Ephesians 2:12). Chalk and cheese combining together to form a pleasing new dish fit for the king, no less! Well that was the plan and, perhaps for a short time in the First Century it was a reality. But history shows us that it didn’t last. As the world and its prejudices infiltrated the Church, this unlikely match was to post divorce papers faster than you can say ‘Hip Hip Hooray’ (which, incidentally, is a curse on Jerusalem). The Jews retreated to their communities, not often by choice, while the Gentile Church swept through the world, more through the power of the sword than the power of the Spirit.
But things began to change in the 19th Century, with some Jews slowly awakening to the truth of the Gospel. These Jews chose to ignore the tragedies of history and instead listened to men like Wilberforce and Shaftesbury in England, Gentiles with authentic love for the Jewish people. Although some of these Jews were being baptized for political and career-serving reasons, others were sincere and we started, at last to see the ‘arousing to envy’ that Saul wrote about in Romans 11:14.
Yet our ‘one new man’ was still lop-sided, more Hooray Henry than Hello Hymie. Any Jew who professed faith in Jesus was absorbed into the Church and told to leave his tefillin, kippa and ‘outdated’ festivals at the threshold as the baptismal font beckoned. But since the 1960s and the birth of the Messianic Jewish movement, things have been changing and the Jewishness has been returning. More and more Churches have been running annual Passover services, the use of the Hebrew name Yeshua has been growing and there’s also been an awful lot of repenting for past sins against the Jewish people.
But it can go too far. There’s a very real danger that our ‘one new man’ could topple over completely under the burden of over-emphasis of our Jewish Roots. From my perspective as Webmaster of an international messianic ministry on the World Wide Web, I can see some worrying trends in the messianic movement. There are some very curious doctrines doing the rounds, resulting in an increasing number of (I believe) confused Gentiles veritably gorging themselves on Jewish culture, so much so as taking on the wearing of kippas and tallits in worship, speaking in Yiddish and Hebrew and justifying it all theologically by declaring themselves the spiritual Lost Tribes of Israel.
You may say that, if they’re comfortable with this, then leave them alone, they’re not hurting anybody. But I believe that is wrong, when we look at the wider picture. As a Jew by birth, for me the image of a Gentile cavorting about in a tallit is curiously offensive. But don’t worry about me, what about the vast army of unsaved Jews out there? Does this behaviour ‘arouse Jews to envy’? Far from it, the reverse surely must be true.
First they insult us and marginalize us, then they murder us and drive us out of their countries. Now they want to strip us of our culture, too? If this is what their Jesus teaches, then they can keep him!
Please be real, folks. Let’s strive for ‘one new man’, but let’s be balanced in the way we do it.