Is God’s Purpose Bigger?

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ORIGINALLY POSTED 30 SEPTEMBER, 2009

reproduced from the Messianic Torah Helper

The spiritual dynamics in today’s Messianic movement are in the process of changing. I think that this is a very good thing.[1] For a number of years I have thought that if some of us do not take a real, hard look at ourselves and what we are doing, then we will not make the kind of impact that our Heavenly Father wants us to make. I have not at all hidden the fact that much of what I have witnessed the past ten years in the Messianic world has not made me happy (1999-2009). We bear all the signs of a faith community that is still very young, still maturing, and still trying to figure out who we are. We do not have the kind of establishment that we need to have, either theologically or spiritually—even though these things are achievable, if we can step back and consider a few things.

Right now as we stand in the middle of the Fall appointed times, who we are or what we are going to be is very much a topic of interest. Today’s Messianic Judaism, where my family got its start in Messianic things in 1995, often sees itself as not being a worldwide, one-faith-for-all movement. It is rather to be perceived as a Jewish renewal movement whereby Jews can come to faith in Messiah Yeshua, retain their Jewishness, and have the safety of a Jewish-friendly environment. Non-Jewish Believers can be involved if they want to be involved, but in many cases they are not encouraged to be involved, or at least encouraged to be involved on a peripheral level.

The independent Messianic movement, which has arisen as many non-Jewish Believers have entered in and have embraced their Hebraic Roots, is all over the board. Some think the end of the world is imminent, and so no time has been spent considering our missiology. Some think that the Messianic movement is to just beat up endlessly on the ills of the Christian Church. Some think that since they could not really do much in terms of leadership or teaching in the Church, that they can actually be “somebody” in the Messianic community. Others think that the Messianic movement is really designed to complete the work of the Reformation, bring all of Israel and the righteous from the nations together, and see a unique faith community of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers emerge. Our ministry has not hidden the fact that this last option is the way that we view things.

Certainly if you were the enemy, and the trajectory of the Scriptures is to have a Grand Commonwealth of Israel of a single, yet diverse people as one in Messiah—where the spiritual heritage of Judaism and Christianity are to be respected, where people are to be diligently obeying God, and most especially where people are to be fulfilling His mission of loving others and expressing His goodness to the larger world—you would want to get it deterred as much as you could. You would send in voices that would get people off on diverse tangents and rabbit trails (or even rattlesnake holes). And we have certainly seen those in the last ten years, from the Sacred Name agenda, the different calendars followed, the phenomenon of Church bashing, not-so-subtle forms of anti-Semitism, end-time hype and paranoia, etc. You would want to keep people away from a comprehensive study of the Scriptures, and having the Holy Spirit empower their hearts and minds to dissect the Word and adequately evaluate where God’s plan of salvation history is taking us.

If you were the enemy, one of the things you would also absolutely want is prejudice to continue. You would want Jewish Believers to look down on non-Jewish Believers, and desire them to make curious Christians not feel entirely welcome at Messianic Jewish congregations. You would want non-Jewish Believers to feel rejected, and while embracing their Hebraic Roots actually become a little anti-Semitic and look down upon their Jewish Roots and mainline Jewish traditions. You would want males to look down upon females, and assert a hardline patriarchy. You would want those who speak the loudest, but think the most scrambled, to be those who were heard and taken seriously. You would want those who look the most provocative and dress up in various costumes, to be the ones who were seen. You would want those who take the extreme positions to be the ones who determine theology and orthopraxy.

As I have interacted with many Messianic Believers, Jewish and non-Jewish, over the years, they instinctively feel that a time is going to have to come where we move beyond these things. Many people honestly do throw their hands up in the air and ask, “What happened to the love and grace of Yeshua? What happened to the work of the Holy Spirit? Where is God really leading us?”

We are certainly not being led to a place by God where there are two sub-peoples of God: Messianic Jews and evangelical Christians, who are intended to remain entirely separate until the Second Coming. God is certainly not leading us to a place where previous generations of Jews and Christians are demonized, and where teachers and leaders consistently violate the Fifth Commandment in denigrating our ancestors. God is not leading us to a place where we are completely neutered from making a difference in the wider world, as though “Torah observance” only includes keeping Shabbat, the appointed times, and kosher—and not helping people through acts of kindness and mercy.

In the past two years I have been really probing the mind of God to try to figure out what things have been keeping the broad Messianic community from accomplishing its full potential. Some of my thoughts I need to keep to myself a while longer. Yet a few of them can be shared. The unity that all of God’s people are to have—either Jewish or non-Jewish—is to be a testimony of the greater redemption to come to the cosmos in the future (Ephesians 3:10). We really do have the capacity to bring people together where the role of the Jewish people in history can be honored and respected, and where the anti-Semitism of the past can be precisely that: the past. We really can see Jewish people come to faith in the Messiah of Israel, and Christian people take a hold of parts of the Bible that they thought were not for them. We have the capability to be a faith community that is a real force of holiness and righteousness. Many more than just Jews and Christians are to ultimately be affected.

The only way you can see or even think about these things is to recognize that the Messianic movement is much bigger than you or I. It is not something that is exclusively this ministry over here, or that collection of congregations over there. No one person or select clique is in control. It is something that the Creator God has started, to ultimately accomplish some extremely important tasks. God does have to use flawed human beings to accomplish these tasks, and some of these people might have much smaller and more limited views of what the Messianic movement needs to be than He does. Finite mortals frequently fail to consider God’s perspective in bringing things together. Even if the currents and eddies of the religious world sway too much during a five year period (cf. Ephesians 4:14; James 1:6), if the Lord has planned things to occur and culminate over a multi-decade or even multi-century period, then that is not very long to Him at all (cf. Psalm 90:4).

Right now there is a whole lot of talk on the future of the Messianic movement, and the involvement of people like myself: non-Jewish Believers from evangelical Christian backgrounds, who have embraced their Hebraic Roots and desire to live a Torah obedient life. Is this a lifestyle that is God’s intention for all His people as the Spirit writes the commandments onto my heart at a steady pace (Ezekiel 36:27), or have I fallen prey to the insidious words of a Judaizer designed to bring me into legalistic bondage? Am I an equal member of the ekklēsia, via the work of Yeshua, who can be just as close to the Throne of God as any Jewish Believer? While surely I am to acknowledge and repent of previous Christian animosity displayed toward Judaism, and high respect and honor is due toward the Jewish people—am I going to receive any reciprocal respect for the good things that my Christian heritage (Wesleyanism) has accomplished and brings to the table? Can we not all learn from one another as we work together, accomplishing God’s mission?

Some of these questions might not be answerable for the current generation of Messianic Jews. Consider the fact that today’s Messianic Jews are still very much wrestling with what it means to be Jewish, and believe that Yeshua is the Messiah. These are people whose families will often hold funerals for them when they come to faith. These are people who are spurned by the wider Jewish community, so wanting a relatively homogeneous Messianic Jewish congregation of almost all Jewish Believers—a “safe place”—is certainly understandable. Many people are still mending wounds of rejection from their family, carrying a great deal of pain. Messianic Judaism is still a first generation movement, and is still having to work through the basic issues of what it means to be a Jewish Believer, and we all need to be very sensitive to this fact. It simply might not be ready for considering a wider view of what Israel is to become by the eschaton.

God is going to accomplish His purposes as laid out in His Word, even if it takes some more time. But if we at all misdiagnose the trajectory of the Scriptures, significantly shifting emphases and policies and teaching styles to fit the changing market, people are not only going to be hurt, but they are going to be quite upset as well. Extreme sides will only be that much more emboldened, and divisions will continue. Reason and sanity will not only not prevail, but the unique work of the Holy Spirit will be stifled. Free will could deter the timing of what the Lord wants to be achieved.

What will we begin to see take place in the 2010s is a clash of two very similar, but very different ideologies. A complementarian ideology, which permeates most of today’s Messianic movement, advocates that we are all equal before God, but we all have separate roles. This not only pertains to a couple’s marriage relationship and leadership in the assembly, but also separating, albeit subtly, Jewish and non-Jewish Believers with one being superior to the other. In my opinion, it is not the ideal, because it too often encourages rivalry—and surely the curse that was upon Adam and Eve for them to try to best the other, is surely something that does not need to be perpetuated (Genesis 3:16b; cf. 4:7).

An egalitarian ideology, which our ministry adheres to, advocates that we are all equal before God (Galatians 3:28), and we are to all be in mutual submission to one another (Ephesians 5:21) with no one group possessing total superiority (cf. Colossians 3:11). We all have to work together, and in working together we all value and honor one another the same way that God values us as humans made in His image. A high degree of respect and integration of the Jewish theological tradition, particularly in terms of mainline halachah, is by all means to be included. A Jewish leading in the various divisive areas of Torah that we have witnessed in recent history is to be followed (Romans 3:1-2). At the same time, the Christian theological tradition also contributes to the Messianic movement, particularly in terms of how we conduct body ministry. Both Judaism and Christianity contribute to our Biblical Studies. Within the framework of mutual submission, we should all be able to be the “one new humanity” (Ephesians 2:15, NRSV/CJB) that God wants us to be. All of our strengths should be able to be employed.

From a very young age, my parents modeled to me that an egalitarian ideology can work. My parents were both partners in marriage, working together as leaders of the home, working together in the family business, and even working together in ministry activities in our church. My parents would always fight together when a crisis erupted, and they always informed their two children (at the time) about the ups and downs of family life. They were brutally honest to Jane and me about our finances, and were very clear to instruct us not to share “family business” with outsiders. Because my parents were in mutual submission to one another, I can count on one hand the total number of fights that they had in seventeen years of marriage. And because Kim and Margaret McKee were in mutual submission to one another, I have no questions about the fidelity of either one of them. (And, seeing the example of Mark and Margaret Huey has helped me as well.)

Some of you know that something big is going to click sooner or later in the Messianic movement, where we begin to achieve what the Lord has determined that we achieve. If this movement is to be something bigger than just a Jewish renewal movement, and something bigger than Christians having Passover seders in their churches and a more positive attitude toward Judaism, then it is going to be achieved by the sovereign hand of the Almighty. Not too many of us like to hear that the positive fruits of the Protestant Reformation did not begin to manifest in significance until the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries—at least 200 years after the time of Martin Luther!

I do not believe it will take two to three centuries for the Messianic movement to sort itself out, but it will take more than weeks or months. It will not be achieved with blogs, YouTube, nor will it be achieved by a teacher writing a single book. It will be achieved with a great deal of work, study, and sanctification. It will be achieved by us making a positive difference in the lives of others. Perhaps most importantly we will accomplish God’s mission when we can each have an internal peace—that even though human people might fail us—God Himself is ultimately on our side!

During the final months of this decade (2000s), things are being stirred around. Hegemonies are being removed. Some are falling, and some are rising. People are talking, speculating, and theorizing what is next.

Between all of the talk and banter, not enough people are inquiring of the Lord as to what is next. Too many people in the past decade, I think, have failed to consider that this whole Messianic “thing” is bigger than a single person or a select few people. What this means is that time is going to fix many of the complicated circumstances in which we find ourselves. Can we wait it out?

What might we do to see His objectives achieved? Take this before the Lord in prayer, as He refines His people for what lies ahead…


NOTES

[1] This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Outreach Israel News.