Following Yeshua while practicing Judaism is weird. It’s OK to be weird for the right reasons. But unfortunately, our communities are often also weird in other, needless ways. And this inhibits our ability to function in a way that reflects positively on either Yeshua or Judaism.
Our faith in Yeshua has profound implications for our lives; it causes us to stand out as unique. But what are the ways that it should differentiate us from others, as individuals and as communities? What is it about Messianic Jewish thought that is different from other forms of Judaism? One way to approach this question is to look at the first generation of disciples. What were the unique features of the apostolic community that set them apart from the Judaism of their time?
When the apostles and the thousands of disciples in their generation met together, what was unique in their communities? Was it that they proclaimed the new moon themselves instead of relying on the Sanhedrin? Was it that they began combining meat and dairy in their meals? Was it that they blew shofars at random times all throughout the year instead of waiting for Elul and Rosh HaShanah? Was it that they attached tzitzit to their belt loops?
No, the difference was that they devoted themselves to Yeshua. They memorized his words. They shared his stories and the encounters they had with him. They envisioned him as the coming Messiah. They anticipated the kingdom that he spoke about. They implemented his teachings of love, justice, mercy, faith, humility, purity of heart, generosity, peace, and perseverance.
Yeshua didn’t come teaching a new religion. He didn’t even come teaching a new Judaism. He came to urge his brothers to commit themselves to Judaism’s true principles, especially love for one another.
The differences between the Judaism of the apostles and others were not halachic. They were not even theological. The biggest difference was sociological. It was the recognition that people from all nations were welcome to partake in the blessings of Israel and to walk with Israel’s God. It was that Judaism was for everybody, not just Jews. What, then, should be special about our culture? I know the world is not like this just yet, but let’s imagine what Messianic Judaism could be like in an ideal world.
In my opinion, Messianic Jews should be known for being dedicated to their Jewish identity. Happy about their calling as Jews. They should be known as zealous in keeping the Torah as well as their ancestral traditions in light of the Messiah’s teachings. And they have a great love for all people of every nationality. Messianic Gentiles should be known for valuing their identity as Gentile disciples of Yeshua. They are known for rejecting anti-Semitism and any kind of supersessionism. They are knowledgeable about Judaism and understand Yeshua in the context of Jewish thought. They, too, seek to live by the principles of Torah and honor the historical interpretations of the Jewish people. Whenever they can, they go out of their way to assist Jews in meeting their covenant obligations.
In every aspect of their lives, both Messianic Jews and Gentiles seek to honor the name of Yeshua. They are known for being generous and kind to others. For going above and beyond the call of duty. For self-sacrifice. For standing up for the downtrodden. For humility. For making peace. For forgiveness.
In my imaginary world, Messianic synagogues are a place where the highest standards are upheld, yet no one feels condemned or discouraged, regardless of their knowledge or ability. They are unique in that while Jews form the community core, people from all nations come to seek the God of Israel, to learn the ways of HaShem.
If wherever you go, your surroundings become more and more like the Messianic Kingdom - there is peace and harmony; people’s physical and spiritual needs are taken care of; people catch a glimpse of who HaShem is, and Yeshua’s identity is truly known and understood; if Jewish people feel inspired to fulfill their calling as a light to the nations and Gentiles are walking in the light of Torah, then you might be darn good at being Messianic. May it be speedily soon and in our days!