Monday, January 5, 2015

More Than A Label -- Why I am Committed to the Messianic Movement

Photo Credit: Allison McDonald
My last post kicked up quite a firestorm, proving far more popular than I had imagined. Now that I've got that rant out, I want to take a step back. When we constantly hear about and observe the various problems of the Messianic movement, the temptation is to throw in the towel. With all the infighting and various crazy doctrines that permeate the movement, many simply choose to disassociate themselves from the Messianic identity and community. They continue in Torah and Messiah, but they do it solo.

One of the reasons I come out so strong against "pagan root" theories, is because that is one of the areas where my family has felt the sting of judgment and betrayal. Like all of us, I too have been hurt by the movement. Sometimes that hurt comes out in my writing.

Yet, I have hope. And I pray that in everything I say and do, the hope outshines the hurt.

More Than a Label
"Messianic" is not simply a box that I choose to confine myself in or a set of doctrines that defines me. It is an identity and a community. It is a movement that I believe is inspired by the Holy Spirit. As men, we have a way of making a mess of things and fracturing that initial calling we received to return to the Torah of our fathers. But, the fact is, it is still that calling and our firm faith in Yeshua that binds us together.

"Messianic" says I stand for something. It says I stand for the people of Israel. I stand for the Torah of our fathers. And I stand for the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua. Not in opposition to the church, but as one who wants to bring reform to the church.

"Messianic" says I am part of something bigger than myself. I am part of a growing community committed to the above ideals. Not a perfect community, but a young struggling community. These are the people that encourage and challenge me. These are the people that I work to encourage and challenge. I have a voice in this movement. Together we're working toward a higher goal--the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

As former Protestants, the idea of individual faith appeals to us, but we as individuals we are limited and fragile. A single strand snaps easily, but a threefold cord is not easily broken. Separately we live to ourselves, but together we can make a difference in this world. It is when we gather together that Messiah is among us. It is when we join together that we are able to be the hands and feet of our Savior. Hebrews admonishes us:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. - Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
One Body
Paul in his letter to the Corinthians criticizes their dividing into factions. "I follow Apollos," "I follow Paul," etc. What struck me is that included in this list is "I follow Christ." Why would Paul criticize those who claimed to follow Christ? Because of what was being implied--that those who followed Apollos or Paul or whomever were not following Christ. Even in claiming to follow Messiah alone, these people had cut themselves off from Christ's body.

Paul makes it clear in his letter that each of us has a different function, a unique role to fill in the body of Christ. We are a diverse group. But, we are still one body. To separate ourselves from that body is akin to amputation. Without any member, the body is incomplete.

Two Housers and One Housers. Sacred Namers and HaShem-ers. Traditionalists and Karaites. Baptist and Presbyterian and Catholic and Pentecostal and Messianic, etc. We are all members of the body of Christ. One body.
[There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all. - Eph 4:4-6
I, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the calling wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. - Eph 4:1-3
Broken People
As we read through the Torah portions, we find that our modern communities are not the only ones with problems. Joseph and his brothers, the founders of Israel, fought and killed over an interpretation of prophecy. Yet, these men went on to be the fathers of a single nation, God's chosen people. The people in the wilderness complained without ceasing. A dispute over leadership arose in their ranks, fracturing the community. Idolatry was an ever present reality that taunted the people of God. Yet, Moses declared he would give his life for this people (Exo. 32:32). When the spies came back from the land of Canaan and the people rejected the promise, Caleb and Joshua did not part ways to take God's promise solo. They stuck with the people of God, even as they endured the forty years in the wilderness. Should we be so quick to abandon our people?

We've just come to the end of Genesis in the Torah portions, and at the end of every book we cry out "Chazak chazak v'nitchazek,"--be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened. That is what I say to you today. In Yeshua HaMashiach, we are strengthened by holding fast to His word. In Him we find the grace and patience and forgiveness of our heavenly Father, and through Him we are able to show that same spirit to others. In Him, we find healing.

The Messianic Movement is not perfect by any means--it's made up of imperfect people like myself. But, I think it's worth holding onto. It's family.

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