One of the greatest mistakes made by the protestant—predominantly evangelical—Christian church since its inception has been to consistently define itself by what it is not; we don’t light candles for the dead, we don’t pray to Mary, we don’t use incense, and so on into perpetuity. As a result many modern Protestants from all walks of life are now able to share with great accuracy what they are not, but very few can truly articulate who they are. In part, Messianic Judaism reemerged in opposition to this kind of anti-faith, the irony being that—like Hassidism—we now find ourselves in opposition to ourselves.
In order to meet my financial obligations I work as a Christian bookstore manager. This position affords me the opportunity to meet a wide range of people from many different spheres of the Christian faith including but not limited to: Catholic, Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Conservative-Evangelical and yes, of course, Messianic. Of this wide range of believers it seems that many know what they disagree with but few are able to speak for very long about their positive belief. What disappoints me most however is the rising ferocity in the anti-faith talk of the Messianic Zealots I encounter on a regular basis. I wish to make it clear once again that these Zealots are not Jews, rather they are Gentile converts to Messianic Judaism—if there is such a thing. I am more and more convinced that Rabbi Shaul himself—Paul the apostle—would have given harsh rebuke to these ones who speak more often of what others should not do than they do of the Savior, our Messiah Yeshua—Jesus.
I am consistently told by my Messianic extremist brothers and sisters that I should not celebrate Christmas, worship on Sundays, go to Easter services, use the name “Jesus,” etc. Though it must be said they are entirely misinformed regarding Christmas and the use of the name Jesus and fail to understand that all days belong to G-d; the more poignant issue is, that they are passionately endowed with teaching regarding what they and others shouldn’t do, but are unable to articulate the many wonders and depths of faith found in a Messiah centered Messianic Jewish Tradition.
When we define ourselves by what we are not, we are repeating the error of our forebears both Jewish and Christian. Those we seek as converts to our way of thinking are instantly disillusioned, in our zeal we turn them away from the beauty and traditions we might otherwise have positively offered them. Often our fierce words of rebuke are based on poor historical knowledge, misinterpretation of scripture, inaccuracies and myth; passed on by lazy teachers and blinded guides. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. Mattitiyahu/Matthew 23:14-16
This is not who we are, it is who we were, before we met Messiah, but now, in Him, we are to be a light to the nations. It is time to stem the flow of darkness that is issuing from our mouths. We are, “A royal priesthood, a Holy nation, a people belonging to G-d. That we might declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.” 1 Kefa/Peter 2:9
If we continually define ourselves by what we are not, we will inevitably forget who we are.
© 2013 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.