by Rick Erb
I was recently listening to a recorded teaching on Islam, which was presented just a few years ago by a nice Jewish fellow. If I mentioned his name, most Messianics would either know him or know of him. However, I can’t imagine a single reason why he would want to be shoved into the middle of this discussion. So, let’s just leave him out of this. For purposes of this piece, let’s just assume that a comment he made in passing is genuinely his personal observation (I’m pretty sure that it is).
Just for the heck of it, let’s even assume that his observation is accurate (I’m pretty sure that it is).
Few, if any, would question this fellow’s credentials to speak on the nature, history, and mindset of Islam, except, of course, folks who embrace Islam as a way of life. This piece isn’t written for Muslims, nor is it even about Islam. I only mention that detail in order to provide a little context for the comment he made which really resonated with me. This fellow moves easily in and among Synagogues, Churches, and Messianic assemblies (whatever a Messianic assembly is being called these days). As a result, he has had broad exposure to how people of the Bible relate to and interact with one another-or not (not, mostly). Though he’s not a Christian, he is thoroughly familiar with the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus (that’s right, I didn’t call him Yeshua, deal with it), and he embraces both Jews and Christians, and sees Judeo-Christian teachings as a unified system.
So, what did this fellow have to say? Why am I troubling you with all of this? Why all of this buildup? Why don’t you just get to the point, Rick? Alright, I will. Here’s what really hit home. Speaking to a Christian audience (not Messianic believers) he said:
What does Jesus teach all of us? Jesus teaches love the Lord thy God, love thy fellow as thyself, love thy enemy. So what do we do? We hate. Christians hate Christians, Jews hate Jews, everybody hates the Messianics. And God is saying “You guys want to hate? Perfect, I’ll send you the Moslems. The Moslems will teach you a thing or two about hatred.” And all Jesus is saying is “Love the Lord thy God, love thy fellow as thyself.” It doesn’t even cost anything. He said it’s a question of the heart. And what do we do? We hate! After 2000 years, nothing has worked. We’re too busy hating each other. Christians hate Christians, Jews hate Jews, Messianics hate Messianics – everybody hates the Messianics.
So, what is it about us that results in everybody hating us; not just us hating others of our own, but also us being hated by the other groups to such a degree that this is the candid observation of a fairly neutral outsider? What marvelous, what exceptional, what rarified qualities do we possess which result in us hating us, and everybody else hating us too? I’ll concede that this statement, if taken literally, might be a bit of an overstatement (not by much, by golly), and that not every single Messianic hates every other Messianic, nor does every single Christian and Jew hate every single Messianic. Why, even I (obnoxious though I be) have a few Christian and Jewish friends who don’t hate me. In fact, despite the Messianic Community being such treacherous and hostile territory, I even know a few Messianics who don’t fully hate me. So, the problem is not 100%. Net yet, anyway. Still, even with that concession there is plenty of room here for some serious self-reflection – why does everybody hate the Messianics?
Goodness, where do we start? There’s so blasted many possibilities. Could the answer, or at least one aspect of the answer, lie in the middle of 1 Corinthians chapter 13? A little more precisely stated, could it be that the desirable attributes called for in verses 4-7 of that chapter are seriously lacking in many Messianics? Could it be possible, in fact (gasp), that some of the Messianics who are most profoundly lacking in these desirable qualities find themselves in positions of leadership in this movement? Well, let’s take a look at something, and see what we think. The passage actually says (NASB):
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Now, let’s stand that passage on its head, view things from sort of the opposite perspective (not exactly a colonoscopy, but don’t turn loose of that mental image right away), and see if anything resembles what other people might be seeing in the Messianic movement.
Messianics are impatient, they are unkind and they are jealous; Messianics are braggarts, they are arrogant, and they act unbecomingly; Messianics seek to promote themselves, they are easily provoked, they cling to the memory of each and every wrong suffered or imagined, they rejoice in unrighteousness, but do not rejoice with the truth; they bear nothing, believe nothing, hope in nothing, endure nothing.
Ouch. If that’s even close to what others see in Messianics, that could easily explain why everybody hates the Messianics. And, it could also explain why so many Messianics hate other Messianics.
Many Messianics hold to the notion that in these times, the God of Israel is revealing and restoring some things. For Messianic Jews, a significant portion of that involves an awakening to the recognition of Jesus (there’s that word again) as Messiah. For many of us, it involves being awakened to the beauty and vitality of Our Father’s instructions, spoken to and through the Hebrew prophets of old, and also being awakened to an identity as part of the Commonwealth of Israel. Both perspectives are completely legitimate, as we take baby steps from the systems in which we’ve been raised toward the restoration of all things. And, if Our Father is up to something big, shouldn’t we expect the enemy to be doing his best to derail it? Well, it looks to me, based on my own experiences in the Messianic Community, that the enemy has actually had some significant success in derailing things, and he’s had that success because we have allowed it to happen through our words and through our deeds.
Of all the people who should manifest the attributes of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, should it not be us? And yet we see and experience from one another conduct which is fully consistent with the enemy’s kingdom; things such as enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, and envying. Paul forewarned us (Galatians 5:19-21) that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. How much longer will we tolerate these attributes in ourselves? The ball is in our court; each of us as individuals. It is possible to stop being the people hated by everybody, but only if we are willing to take a serious look at our own hearts, and make some serious changes.
If Paul were writing to the Messianic Community today, perhaps he would say something like this (1 Corinthians 1:10 NASB):
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.
And so I encourage you, brothers and sisters in the Messianic Community, let’s all take a hard look at our own hearts, and see if there isn’t some room for improving the way we treat and talk to one another. May it one day soon be said of us that we are known for our love for one another.
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