This post will probably not be comfortable to read. You may get angry. It is my hope an prayer that you will consider the heart that it is written in and the message that it contains before you dismiss it.
How come we have so much division in the church? In our small groups? In our shuls? In the synagogues? Why is there so much animosity towards others? Maybe this is a naive question. However, I have been around the block more than once. It is my experience that there is ALWAYS a root cause(s) behind the surface cause(s). So maybe I should ask this question a little better so we can skip a bunch of the surface stuff and get to the meat of the issue,
What is the “ROOT” cause of all our animosity towards each other?
This is the real question. It has real answers . . . “biblical” answers!
A Jewish friend of mine that is also a deeply loved brother shared a joke with me recently about 2 Rabbis being stranded on an island that can shed some light on this:
2 Rabbis are stranded on an island. 10 years later, they are found and rescued. The rescue party comes ashore. When they do, the see 3 synagogues. One of the rescuers asks them, “Were there more that just the 2 of you?” The Rabbis shake their heads no which confuses the rescuers even more as one blurts out:
“if there is only 2 of you, why is there 3 synagogues?”
One Rabbi steps forward to explain:
“The synagogue on that you see on the left – that is my synagogue. That is where I go on Shabbat. The synagogue that you see on the right – that is his synagogue and that is where he goes on Shabbat”
Incredulous, the rescuer can no longer stand it and blurts out, “But what about the one in the middle?!?” The other Rabbi steps forward and states:
“That synagogue in the middle? You don’t want to know about it. Neither myself nor the other Rabbi would be caught dead in that synagogue!”
It is a funny joke because it is full of irony. Before anyone reading this gets self-righteous, you could insert “church” for synagogue and “Pastor” for Rabbi and the meaning would not be lost at all nor any less full of irony.
Let’s go back a bit in the text – a text full of things like “Exterminate their name, destroy their altars, don’t intermarry with them.” Many places in the Torah (the 5 books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) use this type of language.
I want everyone to be totally honest with themselves right here (Jew and non-Jew) – If God tells you that you are His chosen people and that He will dispossess and destroy others for you, is it possible that you could become a little overly proud? And to some of the Christians reading this, don’t forget that there is a tendency in Jesus to do the exact same thing and become overly proud as well.
One of the “root” causes of animosity towards others is “spiritual elitism.”
I am going to let that sink in for a minute because I want you to consider it carefully before you dismiss it as non-applicable to you.
The problem is that “pride” is hated by Adonai.
Proverbs 8:13 (CJB)
13 The fear of Adonai is hatred of evil.
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil ways and duplicitous speech.
The fact that pride leads to: disgrace, destruction, dishonor, insolence and Sh’ol doesn’t seem to have deterred Jews or non-Jews, throughout history, from embracing the very thing that Adonai hates.
Let’s start with the very words for places of worship: sunagōgē and ekklēsia, aka, synagogue and church. These are both Greek terms. Sunagōgē or Synagogue means place of assembly or a congregation and is a synonym for ekklēsia or Church which also means assembly or congregation. There are some minor differences in the meanings just like there are differences between the assemblies themselves. The point is, lines are drawn – Jew vs Non-Jew. Few, if any, Jews would call their place of assembly a church and few, if any, non-Jews would call their place of assembly a synagogue.
It is sad really. 2 groups of people that state that they love God – dismissing the other group even in the very name of the place they worship at.
Shabbat vs the Lord’s day – law vs no or “some” law – Messiah . . . well you get the picture. There is a huge divide.
Within modern Judiasm, there is an understanding that some of the ultra-orthodox don’t consider the orthodox to be Jews – that some of the orthodox don’t consider the reformed to be Jews – and that few, if any Jews, consider Messianics to be Jews. There is irony behind this because one can be an atheist and be a Jew. One can be a Buddhist and be accepted as a Jew. But to be a Messianic? As Tevye said in The Fiddler on the Roof, “If I bend that far, I will break!”
It is no different with non-Jews. Christians branches of orthodoxy dismiss other branches as less orthodox and not really Christian. Many Christians dismiss Messianics in the same way that Rabbinical Judaism rejects Messianics. Ironically, some Messianics even dismiss other Messianics!
In all of these things, spiritual elitism rears its ugly head, through pride, in spite of the fact that Adonai hates pride!
Messanics are not eligible to make Aliyah to Israel because they are no longer considered Jews even if they could trace and prove their lineage back to Abraham himself. An atheist Jew could and a Buddhist Jew could – just not a Messianic.
The same kind of thing happens to them in Christian circles as well. The pork test is well known, and as sad as it is, used by some Christians to see if a Messianic is a follower of Judaism or of Jesus. Being both a Jew and a follower of Jesus doesn’t compute for many Christians so some try and get the Messianic Jew to eat pork to prove he is no longer under the law. How utterly sad!
This topic is so huge that there is no way to address all of the nuances, and yet, Adonai has already addressed it in His Word in a very simple declaration and command:
“Love your neighbor as yourself!”
This is a Jewish teaching In Leviticus long before Yeshua restated it in Matthew.
Leviticus 19:18 (CJB)
18 Don’t take vengeance on or bear a grudge against any of your people;
rather, love your neighbor as yourself; I am Adonai.
In fact, the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a, also addresses this concerning Rabbi Hillel (the Golden Rule):
On another occasion it happened that a certain heathen came before Shammai and said to him, ‘Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.’ Thereupon he repulsed him with the builder’s cubit which was in his hand.12 When he went before Hillel, he said to him,
‘What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour:13
that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.’
We could argue over who the neighbor is and who it isn’t using pride and spiritual elitism but that would muddy up Adonai’s commands – In fact, Yeshua – a Jewish Rabbi, knew this when he was put to a sh’eilah to trap him by a Torah expert of that time:
Matthew 22:33-36 (CJB)
33 When the crowds heard how he taught, they were astounded; 34 but when the P’rushim (Pharisees) learned that he had silenced the Tz’dukim (Sadducees), they got together, 35 and one of them who was a Torah expert asked a sh’eilah to trap him:
36 “Rabbi, which of the mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah is the most important?”
Brothers and sisters – Jewish and non-Jewish – I pray you have ears to hear this! Yeshua was Jewish regardless of what Israel and Rabbinical Judaism says today – Yeshua was Jewish regardless of what Christianity tries to discard concerning his Jewish identity as the Jewish māshîach (Messiah).
How can Yeshua’s teaching be ignored or disregarded when He was much more accurate than Hillel? How so, you might ask? The first part of his answer:
Matthew 22:37-38 (CJB)
37 He told him,
“‘You are to love Adonai your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your strength.’
38This is the greatest and most important mitzvah (command).
Who can argue with this? How Jewish is this? Yeshua is quoting Shema:
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (CJB)
4 (A:vi, S: v) “Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad
[Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one];
5 and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart,
all your being
and all your resources.
Rabbi Yeshua doesn’t stop with Shema – He says there is another command that is similar:
Matthew 22:39 (CJB)
39 And a second is similar to it,
‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’
Hillel only stated this part. Yeshua stated this and Shema. Yeshua then goes on to state something very significant:
Matthew 22:40 (CJB)
40All of the Torah and the Prophets
on these two mitzvot (commands).”
The Torah (the 5 books of Moshe)
The Prophets (Nevi’im)
What is Yeshua stating here? Who was he stating it to?
Earlier in the text, we find out:
Matthew 15:24 (CJB)
24 He said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Isra’el.”
Don’t build a theology of spiritual elitism here either. There is some context that can’t be ignored the same way the woman he addressed here can’t be ignored – Let’s look at the context:
Matthew 15:21-28 (CJB)
21 Yeshua left that place and went off to the region of Tzor and Tzidon. 22 A woman from Kena‘an who was living there came to him, pleading,
“Sir, have pity on me. Son of David!
My daughter is cruelly held under the power of demons!”
23 But Yeshua did not say a word to her. Then his talmidim (disciples) came to him and urged him, “Send her away, because she is following us and keeps pestering us with her crying.”
24 He said,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Isra’el.”
25 But she came, fell at his feet and said, “Sir, help me!” 26 He answered,
“It is not right to take the children’s food and toss it to their pet dogs.”
27 She said, “That is true, sir, but even the dogs eat the leftovers that fall from their master’s table.” 28 Then Yeshua answered her,
“Lady, you are a person of great trust.
Let your desire be granted.”
And her daughter was healed at that very moment.
The woman had great trust even though she wasn’t one of the lost sheep of Israel – she didn’t get offended by Yeshua’s remark. She was humble, not proud. Her trust and humbleness got her daughter healed.
It is not the first time that the Jewish Rabbi Yeshua is surprised by the trust (faith) of non-Jews. In fact, it is the trust of a Roman officer (a gentile) that Yeshua is amazed by:
Matthew 8:5-10 (CJB)
5 As Yeshua entered K’far-Nachum,
a Roman army officer came up and pleaded for help.
6 “Sir, my orderly is lying at home paralyzed and suffering terribly!”
7 Yeshua said,
“I will go and heal him.”
8 But the officer answered,
“Sir, I am unfit to have you come into my home.
Rather, if you will only give the command, my orderly will recover. 9 For I too am a man under authority.
I have soldiers under me,
and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes;
to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes;
to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”
10 On hearing this Yeshua was amazed and said to the people following him,
“Yes! I tell you, I have not found anyone in Isra’el with such trust!
So, before you discount the “non-Jews (Gentiles-Christians),” it would be wise to understand that some of them had trust (faith) that Yeshua considered worthy even though they may not have understood biblical Judaism at the time nor been one of the lost sheep of Israel. Messianics can sometimes forget this and end up on the road of spiritual elitism themselves.
A Rabbi I studied under used to use the term “insignificant other” regarding Christian history towards the Jews. In reality, history is full of all kinds of people, religious and otherwise, pointing their fingers at people that don’t agree with them – at the insignificant others. Hitler used religion as a weapon and justification for making the Jews insignificant others complete with yellow armbands that culminated in the attempted extermination of an entire people. Many Christian churches stood idly by as this happened justifying that it was their (the Jews) punishment for rejecting Jesus.
Is a Messianic an insignificant other? Let me ask a tougher question. If a Jew believed that Yeshua was Messiah during the holocaust, would that have prevented him from being exterminated at Auschwitz? Should his name be blotted from the annals of Yad VaShem? Should he be stripped of his Jewish identity because he didn’t come under the reformed, orthodox or ultra-orthodox banner?
You see, this all comes back to the Word of God – to Yeshua which means Salvation. Yes, even the Talmud states this:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent on understanding this – on applying this. Can you and do you love God with all your heart, mind and soul if you DON’T do this? Can you even understand His word if you don’t do this?
When someone cuts in front of you and makes you slam on your brakes, do you cuss them out? Do you get angry with them? What if you had a crystal ball and could see that they had just lost their wife to cancer? Would you still be as angry or would there be some compassion? What if you could see that he had just arrived home to find his wife in bed with his best friend? Would you cut his some slack then?
This is what loving your neighbor is about – it is looking beyond the obvious and realizing that God made him – that Yeshua died for him – and that he is a sinner no different from you – in need of restoration – in need of salvation. So who is your neighbor? I will close by letting Yeshua tell you himself by putting this all in context:
Luke 10:25-37 (CJB)
25 An expert in Torah stood up to try and trap him by asking,
“Rabbi, what should I do to obtain eternal life?”
26 But Yeshua said to him,
“What is written in the Torah? How do you read it?”
27 He answered,
“You are to love Adonai your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your strength
and with all your understanding;
and your neighbor as yourself.”
28 “That’s the right answer,” Yeshua said. “Do this, and you will have life.”
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Yeshua,
“And who is my ‘neighbor’?”
30 Taking up the question, Yeshua said:
“A man was going down from Yerushalayim to Yericho
when he was attacked by robbers.
They stripped him naked and beat him up,
then went off, leaving him half dead. 31 By coincidence, a cohen (priest)
was going down on that road;
but when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levi who reached the place and saw him
also passed by on the other side. 33 “But a man from Shomron
who was traveling came upon him;
and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. 34 So he went up to him,
put oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he set him on his own donkey,
brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day,
he took out two days’ wages,
gave them to the innkeeper and said,
‘Look after him; and if you spend more than this,
I’ll pay you back when I return.’
36 Of these three,
which one seems to you to have become the ‘neighbor’
of the man who fell among robbers?”
37 He answered,
“The one who showed mercy toward him.”
Yeshua said to him,
“You go and do as he did.”
Blessings to you all – If you don’t agree with each other still make an effort to have mercy on each other – to love each other! Shalom!