More Judaic Than Thou
Rev. 2:9 and 3:9 speak of people “who claim to be Jews though they are not”, and there is much controversy over who these people were. But this phrase came to mind due to what seems to be a veritable tsunami of eagerness for Christians, most of whom were never Jewish, to immerse themselves into Judaism. I wrote about the Hebrew Roots Movement three years ago, so you might want to read that for background on this.
But in the years since then, it seems this push to elevate Judaism has only increased. Yet, ironically, this time has also seen growing anti-Jewish rhetoric and disdain for Israel among the bulk of the Christian world. And in a plot twist worthy of the most famous authors, from this curious mix has come a “good Jew/bad Jew” scene, with the “bad” Jews being called Khazars. This allows people to simultaneously hate Israel and elevate Judaism as true, enlightened, superior Christianity.
This is just one of the reasons I’ve been focusing recently on how far Christianity has strayed from the teachings and examples of the NT. Even though Paul wrote passionately against (and suffered terribly from) early attempts to turn “a new creation” into the old one reloaded, including publicly rebuking Peter for practicing Judaism after Pentecost, people today seem to think nothing of all that and prefer to go back under the law-- without a Temple or Levitical priesthood. Not even the ethnic Jews could truly obey the law without those two critical elements, but now many Christians somehow think this is exactly what God wants and Jesus came to perpetuate.
I am so very tired of seeing Christians despise the name of Jesus and insist on some unpronounceable (and unverifiable) ancient Hebrew version. They almost seem to rub it in the faces of all who think the Greek name written in the NT is perfectly fine. They gush over the latest festival and how spiritual it made them feel; they watch the Jerusalem webcam and long to stand at the Wailing Wall; they quote often from “sacred name” Bibles. An example, this one from Gal. 1:1-6:
Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by YAHSHUA MASHIYACH, and ELOHIYM the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from ELOHIYM the Father, and from our ADONAY YAHSHUA MASHIYACH... I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of MASHIYACH unto another gospel: (emphasis theirs)How can that last verse not grab them by the throat and scream, “You’re doing it right now!”? Does the Jesus whose grace they claim to accept and understand demand that we all have to perfectly pronounce the alleged perfect original Hebrew version? There is overwhelming scriptural support for the argument that we honor the Name of Jesus with our lives and hearts, from which righteous deeds arise, not from Pharisaical obsessions with the letter of the law.
Whether it’s this or something else, the words of Jeremiah 5:31 still ring true: “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” People love religion, whatever the form, and never want it to end. Jesus led us all out of “Egypt” but they, like the ancient Israelites, prefer familiar slavery to unfamiliar freedom. They go on as if the Cross never happened.
Remember all that ranting I’ve been doing about degree vs. kind? Here we are again, and it makes no difference how it’s done or which extreme it falls upon. From “Torah-observant and Proud” to “country church”, it all means Jesus changed nothing. But the fact is that He changed religion to relationship, doing to being, bringing to receiving, and earning to inheriting. When we truly grasp what Jesus came to do, we cannot keep acting in ways that negate it. The first believers could be excused for needing a time to make the transition, but what excuse does anyone else have? As Paul lamented to the Galatians,
How can you turn back again to those weakling elemental spirits and enslave yourselves to them again? You are observing sacred months and times and years! I fear for you, that somehow I labored for nothing on your behalf.Though he was referring to pagan religions there, the sentiment nicely expresses what he spent the better part of all his letters fighting against. How can people turn to religion after having “tasted” (to use the term in Hebrews) the life-giving Spirit? After breathing the free air of knowing Jesus fulfilled every requirement for us, how can we treat it as nothing and try to do it ourselves? We are adopted children and heirs of the kingdom, a nation of priests; why do we act like foreigners and slaves? It’s as if we have moved into a huge mansion from a tiny apartment but insist upon remaining in one or two rooms.
I guess I keep writing these things out of exasperation. I can’t fathom why anyone wants to “stay in Egypt”. And again, I’m not saying we stop giving to the poor or striving to be holy; far from it. We do those things from a pure heart out of a desire to please our Savior, but without the baggage of sacred buildings and rituals. Plenty of good gets done without them, and I believe it’s only a fraction of what would be done if we gave 100% to those things we now consider mere auxiliary activities. We can still get together as we would with family and friends, the way it was always meant to be. That, IMHO, is truly focusing on Jesus rather than ourselves and our religious practices.
We can feel free to call our Savior by any respectful name, but this trend to deliberately downgrade the name “Jesus” and look with disdain on all who have stopped practicing religion is disturbing and disheartening. People are sincere and mean well, whether they write “Yeshua” or “ADONAY YAHSHUA MASHIYACH”, but sincerity has never been an excuse God would accept. The Pharisees were sincere; the preachers who beg and rage for “tithes” are sincere. But we know better, because we’ve been told in scripture very clearly that Jesus-- yes JESUS-- set us free from all that, and we sincerely need to put it into practice. Think long and hard about how best to honor our Savior.