Today, of course, we style ourselves to be “enlightened” and “tolerant.” We are horrified, and rightly so, at the persecution, torture, and murder of Jews through the centuries in the name of Jesus Christ. We would like to think that “true Christians” would never visit such harm on the Jews, but the Homilies of John Crysostom make that notion a lie for Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, and Martin Luther’s history makes it a lie for Protestants and Evangelicals. But moreover, the insidious underlying assumption that undergirds all of the centuries of persecution of Jewish disciples of a Jewish Messiah remains: Jewish Christians are expected to forsake their native culture and adopt Gentile Christian norms.
I recently had the opportunity to put on a Passover Seder for the youth group of a large Presbyterian church, thanks to the assistance and encouragement of the associate pastor. Very early on after we had met, he told me, “My mother is Jewish, you know.”
“Then you were also born a Jew,” I pointed out.
He smiled. “Hey, you’re right!” This is a man who loved his King and who studied diligently the Old Testament in the original Hebrew–but he had never thought of himself as a Jew. It was just something in his family background which he seemed to have no personal stake in.
“Yes it is,” I answered.
“Awesome!” he said. “My mom’s Jewish!”
“Then so are you,” I told him. Just like the associate pastor, the thought seemed to tickle him more than anything else, and my heart broke again. Here was this wonderful young man who clearly loved Yeshua, but who had no connection at all to the cultural heritage he shared with our Lord.
In nearly every church that I’m invited to speak in, at least one person comes up to me to tell me that they have a Jewish parent or grandparent. And not one of them thinks of themselves as a Jew. They’ve been assimilated, not by the threat of death or red-hot pokers, but by the simple assumption of those who led them or their parents to the Messiah that they needed to stop living as Jews and start living as Christians. As Avi Lipkin has put it, the Twentieth Century saw not one, but two holocausts that each wiped out a third of the Jews. One was the Holocaust of persecution and murder that took the lives of so many European Jews, but the second was a “holocaust” of love and acceptance in America that has made it so easy for Jews to abandon their own culture and just fit in to the mainstream. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Church.
“There is no more Jew or Gentile!” the Christian declares (Gal. 3:28, Col. 3:11), but nobody insists that the American Christian give up his Constitution, or that a Mexican Christian cease to speak Spanish or enjoy Latino music, or that a Japanese Christian cease to eat food with lots of rice and tentacles. Missionaries to places like Irian Jaya, where wheat is almost unknown and yams provide the primary starch have no problem explaining Yeshua as the “Yam of Life.” Only the Jew is told that he has to give up his culture, to leave his people, to conform, to become Christianized–or to call it what it is, Gentilized.
When the Christian proclaims, “There is no more Jew or Gentile in Christ Jesus,” what is all too often meant is, “There is no more Jew.” This could not be further from the teaching of the New Testament on how Jewish disciples of the Messiah Yeshua were to conduct themselves. They lived and died as Jews, committed to the Torah, to the traditions of their fathers, and to the Temple service until it was destroyed. They took Nazrite vows and completed them, offered sacrifices, kept the Sabbaths and the Feasts, and in all other ways lived fully Jewish, Torah-observant lives.
Would that the myriads of Jews who have put their faith in the King of the Jews over the centuries had been allowed and encouraged to follow their example. For as we will see, the false “gospel” of Gentilization has done more to put a wall between the Jewish people and our King than all the idols of Canaan.