Recently, a leader in the Messianic movement, a Hebrew Roots gentile friend who “converted” to Messianic Judaism, made some disparaging remarks about his former companions, Torah-keeping gentiles.
If I could condense his words into a sentence:
Gentiles who keep Torah outside of rabbinic interpretation are striking at the core of Judaism, replacing the rabbis, and can be compared to the rebellion of Korah in the wilderness.
To simplify further: if you are a gentile who follows God’s commandments outside the traditions of Judaism, you’re rebelling against God.
I can give you a link to his full statements, but I’m a big fan of the Don’t Give Bile A Permalink mantra. Besides, if you’re in the Messianic blogosphere, you probably have already seen it anyways, and if not, it’s easy enough to find.
The premise of his argument here is silly, because traditional Judaism doesn’t really allow for gentiles keeping Torah, let alone following Jesus at the same time.
Even so, here is my old friend, now a kind of proselyte to a Judaism-not-recognized-by-the-Jewish world, saying Torah-keeping gentiles must follow Judaism’s rabbis (people who do not actually allow for Torah-keeping gentiles), but while still keeping Jesus faith, and if they fail to recognize the authority of said sages, they’re to be compared to the Biblical rebellion of Korach.
I allow for disagreement with friends and disciples; he has his new view on things, and that’s OK, we differ.
The part that hurts is where my former friend lashes out at us, his old companions, as rebellious people who are tearing apart Israel and Judaism, supersessionists, indeed false-friends of Israel.
It’s supersessionoia at its extreme height; paranoid that every observance of God’s commandments is, in some crypto, secret way, a replacement of Jews and Judaism.
As my Israeli friend Dina would say, “Oi yoi yoi!”
Truth is, folks, for those of us in the Hebrew Roots movement, we’re just trying to keep God’s commandments best we know how. That’s all. Really! Many of us are not really opposed to traditions of Judaism within their proper place. We are trying to serve God best we can. That’s all.
But to my old friend, he says we’re rebellious, Israel-hating supersessionists to be compared to Korach.
My initial reaction to his words was at first anger, but then great sadness.
As another friend eloquently summarized,
One day [this man] will realize that rabbinic authority also forbids the recognition of Yeshua as the only Messiah. This man seems to be trapped in some sort of cognitive dissonance caused by his desire to be perceived as a Jew. It's sad to see someone with so much potential have such an irreconcilable discomfort with his own race and self-imposed feelings of inferiority. My guess is that it stems from a lifetime of being told that he, as a gentile, is not entitled to the full inheritance of our God.
After my initial anger settled, and having successfully rebuked the tech temptation to blog-while-angry, I came up with renewed energy to do good work for the Lord. I mean, who can argue with feeding poor kids, right? (Wrong.)
But sometimes, we have to dismiss the critics and just move on with our good work and our convictions. Critics be damned.
And that, folks, is my suggestion to you, as fine Messianics in the blog world. My suggestion is to amplify your good works despite criticisms.
My personal focus in the last year has been to just keep doing good work for the Lord -- helping out at Feed My Starving Children, serving my Hebrew Roots community via music service, supplying books and music to spiritually grow the people at my congregation, building out Chavah Messianic Radio, Messianic Chords, helping regular people when they’re going through tough times.
For you, you have your community, so your good works will be different than mine. Don’t know where to start? You know people. Help them. Christians, Jews, Messianics, whatever. Help people. Do some good service for God. That guy going through a divorce? Help him out. That old woman need help moving? Do it without expecting anything in return. You can find something good to do, something besides arguing theology over the internet.
Make it so that when you die, you’re missed. Make it so that the guy writing your obituary has a damn long list of things to talk about. Make it so that when people read these wrongful criticisms of you and your beliefs, people will know it's without weight because they’ve seen your good works in action, seen Messiah’s love and good works in you, in the real world.
How should we deal with wrongful, hurtful criticisms by leadership in the Messianic movement? By amplifying our good works for the Lord.
Yes, my suggestion is this: let the out-of-touch leadership continue their lengthy, divisive criticisms from their ivory towers and big conferences. The rest of us regular people will continue doing service for the Lord, doing so with the longsuffering of Messiah, despite the slanderous rhetoric from the proselyte pulpit.