Some messages posted by someone who is a friend of mine on Facebook have stirred up quite a ruckus over the past few days, mainly because they question or challenge what the writer sees as widely held Christian beliefs about the Torah.
The tone of the posts is negative toward those Bible-believing Christians who don’t believe that the Sabbath, dietary laws, or other “ceremonial” laws are binding anymore for any believers in the Messiah.
I understand the feeling that the message of the continuing validity of Torah needs to be out there, and that Christians’ lives will be richer if they understand the Jewish context of their faith.
But I disagree with the approach.
I used to be one of the most arrogant, obnoxious Hebrew roots proponents out there, referring to “Sunday Christians” as “pagans” or even, sometimes, “heretics.” But I also realized how sinful such an attitude was, that it was causing division in the Body of Messiah, and that it was even in some aspects a matter of bearing false witness because what I was saying about them wasn’t true.
One of the specialities of the Hebrew roots movement is stirring up division in the Body with an attitude of superiority over those who disagree with them (not that they’re the only ones who do this). It also greatly injures the very thing they say they’re trying to do: persuade more believers to observe more aspects of the Torah. I’m sure they feel they’re spreading the message of God, and that they’re backed up by the Bible, but are these really the “works” they want to be known for? Strife? Divisiveness?
One of the discussions focused on Christians who don’t think they have to do the “works of the law.” The writer pointed out Romans 2:13:
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
He didn’t, however, also discuss Romans 3:20:
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
In other words, it’s not so simple. What Paul is saying about a Gentile’s relation to the Law is a little more complex than one verse.
But what the writer appears to be focusing on are such “works of the law” as keeping Shabbat, dietary laws, etc. In other words, many of the so-called “ceremonial laws” that most Christians feel are done away with, or have been fulfilled in Christ.
Those things are important. They were commanded to the Israelites directly from God Himself.
But what Hebrew roots promoters often don’t bring up, and not in these messages at all, are the matters of the Torah that Yeshua held most highly: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. They also rarely, if ever, promote what Yeshua said would divide the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25.
‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
When one looks at Hebrew roots organizations, especially national ones, it’s rare to see any kind of outreach that truly benefits the less fortunate. They do exist, but are few and far between. There likely are some outreach efforts on the local level, but I’m talking mainly here about the national or even international level.
Who, instead, is carrying out these values and actions? Who is being obedient to Messiah?
Christians, the same ones being insulted and patronized by Hebrew roots promoters for not “keeping” the law. There is no Hebrew roots equivalent of Samaritan’s Purse, or Voice of the Martyrs. Yet people in these movements feel free to point fingers and make accusations.
And if Hebrew roots followers who unkindly or disrespectfully criticize Bible-based Christianity justify themselves by saying they do donate to ministries that help the poor or reach out to the desperate justify themselves, odds are it’s a Christian organization … which is doing the work. Another question is how many Hebrew roots leaders who deride mainstream/Bible-believing Christians or Christian teaching in their sermons or Bible-study classes are holding those services and classes in churches which have agreed to rent to them.
The Hebrew roots attitude toward the rest of the Body of Christ needs to change, or it will do one of two things: destroy itself or continue its irrelevancy while still destroying its relationships with other Christians and ripping apart families.
Much better is the attitude of organizations such as First Fruits of Zion, which holds to the validity of Torah but with an attitude of love and peace toward their brothers and sisters in Christ. Or the attitude of other Messianic Jewish organizations that seek to come alongside their brothers and sisters to work together rather than to tear down.
In fact, a book I finally got around to reading this week published by FFOZ, Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile by Boaz Michael, offers a brief critique of where the Church has gone wrong on Israel, but it prefaces that with a chapter called “The Church Is Good.” It’s a good example of what the attitude of messianics, whether Jewish or Gentile, should be toward the Church.
It isn’t difficult to find good things to say about Christianity. First, Christianity has brought billions of people to Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah and King of the Jews. This is a non-trivial accomplishment. …
Second, Christianity has helped uncountable numbers of poor, hungry, destitute, abandoned people. Myriads of counselees—drug abusers and alcoholics, victim of abuse, troubled spouses—have benefited from a pastor’s biblical advice. …
Most of these people—the poor, the abandoned, the disenfranchised, and the abused—will never understand how Yeshua fulfilled the Passover. They may never taste matzah. They may never utter a single word of Hebrew or even be able to read the Bible in their own language. Yet they rely, just as we do, on the saving grace of God through Yeshua the Messiah. …
The Christians who, throughout the ages, have propagated this message and tried to soothe the hurting, feed the hungry, and speak to social injustice have been keeping the weightier matters of Torah. …
Third, Christianity has preserved the New Testament. Just as the Torah cannot truly be separated from the Jewish community and the Jewish interpretive tradition that has developed around it, so the New Testament cannot really be separated from the Christian community and Christian interpretive tradition. …
Fourth, Messianic Gentiles would not exist without Christianity. They have no direct relationship with the first-century church, the apostles, or the New Testament that has not already been mediated by Christianity—and this is not a bad thing.
We have much to be grateful to the Church for.