One of the things I love about being FFOZ’s Director of Outreach is that I get to connect with pastors and Christian leaders from all over the world on a daily basis. A lot of the relationships that we develop begin at Christian conferences.
In addition to networking with leaders, attending major Christian conferences provides me with the opportunity to engage with ideas that are being communicated throughout the Christian world.
At a recent pastor’s conference involving thousands of church leaders, I listened to one of the most well-known and influential pastors in the world introduce a concept that pitted the morality of the Old Testament against the morality of the New Testament. The pastor said that the Old Testament had a “vertical morality” whereas the New Testament has a “horizontal morality.” His objective was to get church leaders to move away from the “vertical” (which was the old way) and toward the “horizontal” (which is Jesus’ way). This pastor defined a “vertical morality” as a temporary (and past) reality that was expressed in the Old Testament and involved keeping our eyes on God and keeping him happy. A “vertical” (old) morality was not concerned with our conduct and love toward others. According to this pastor, this is why “Paul never leverages the Old Testament for conduct.” In contrast to a “vertical morality,” the pastor spoke of a “horizontal morality,” defined as fellowship with God based on the rule of Christ, which involves a deep and compassionate care and love for people. A “horizontal morality” asks, “What does love require of me?” A “vertical reality” allows one to dismiss people so long as you are right with God.
It’s a massive and damaging (but common) misconception that the Torah and the Old Testament were concerned only with our vertical religious duties toward God and it was unconcerned with the horizontal relationships with people around us. There are too many examples to cite to show how deeply concerned that the Torah is with caring for one’s neighbor. Just one example from the Torah would be the command to leave the corners of the field unharvested for the sake of the poor (Leviticus 19:9-10). The prophets’ rallying cry was to “do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
As a Messianic Jewish rabbi, an adherent to Messianic Judaism, and a representative of First Fruits of Zion, I think you can imagine that I was quite interested in what this pastor was saying. Of course, I fundamentally disagree with the intense dichotomy that this pastor was unashamedly portraying between the Tanach (Old Testament) and the New Testament. But honestly, perhaps because I interact with the Christian world a lot, that kind of teaching doesn’t make my blood boil. Rather, it inspires me and energizes me. Messages like that fuel me to press on to work that much harder, to share with the world the true beauty of the Torah and how it harmonizes perfectly with what Yeshua taught and how He lived.
Being at this conference was inspiring. It put before me once again how important our work is with First Fruits of Zion. We face many challenges - on one side we are defending Yeshua faith in the Jewish world. On the other side - we are defending Torah in the Christian world. By God’s grace, we are making progress. It starts with relationships and how we live. Thank you for standing with us in this important kingdom work!