Square Circles – 1Kings 18:21
The English teacher asked her sixth grade students if they could provide an example of an oxymoron. The girl in the back row raised her hand and the teacher called on her. The student said two words: “President Obama”.
I respect the child’s right to free speech and I am not saying that I disagree with her, what I am saying is that I would have chosen a different example. I would have said: “Messianic Judaism”.
The movement known as Messianic Judaism is in the continuous process of realigning themselves with Jewish tradition and practice. They have incorporated observance of Shabbat, commemoration of the biblical festivals, laying of tefillin, and many other rituals of traditional Judaism.
But Judaism is not about keeping Shabbat, celebrating the festivals or putting on tefillin. Judaism is about keeping the Shabbat as an expression of our obedience to the One God who revealed Himself to our ancestors at Sinai. Judaism is about celebrating the festivals to affirm the truth that there is but One God. Judaism is about wearing tefillin as a testimony to the absolute sovereignty of God. In short; Judaism is about a concept of God – a concept which stands as the very antithesis of Christianity’s claims for Jesus. Belief in Jesus as an expression of Judaism is as absurd as fireproof matches, dark lights and square circles.
The Messianic Jews do not give up. They argue that Jesus is really “one-and-the-same” as the God of Israel.
It is easy to get confused with this argument if you think of it in terms of abstract theology. But this is not an issue of abstract theology – this is an issue of devotion, worship and adoration – all of which take place in the very real human heart.
The devotion towards the God who the Jews have always worshiped is rooted in a very different set of emotions than is the devotion towards the Yeshua of the Messianics. Israel’s devotion towards God is rooted in a deep gratitude towards the God who is above and beyond all of nature, and the gratitude is for every detail of life and existence. This gratitude is based on the recognition that all of existence is but a dependant existence, a needy existence. It is rooted in the recognition that we are all here only because God wills it so. The worship of the Jew is rooted in a deep comprehension that every finite being – with all of their respective qualities – are but creations of the One Creator.
The worship of the Christian/Messianic on the other hand is rooted in a deep appreciation for the qualities of one finite being who walked this earth and breathed its air. This appreciation is based on a denial that the one finite being who is the object of this adoration, was a subject of the One Creator just like the rest of us.
These two devotions are polar opposites; the one is rooted in an awe and reverence for a personality that appeared in the confines of a human body while the other is rooted in the recognition that whoever lives in the confines of a human body owes awe and reverence to the Creator of all. The one devotion is rooted in a sense of gratitude that holds nothing back – a sense of gratitude that recognizes that everything – everything – belongs to the One Creator of heaven and earth. While the other devotion is rooted in the denial of that gratitude – it is rooted in the belief that one inhabitant of this earth owed nothing to anyone and is owed everything by everyone.
What is it that gets your heart excited? Is it the hope that one day all of creation will recognize its absolute dependance on the One Creator of all? Or is it your heart fired with the hope that one day all people will acknowledge their supposed debt to another person?
– If you chose the former – call your belief system: Judaism, for that was the name of this belief for the last 2000 years. If you chose the latter – call yourself a Christian, for that is what those who hoped to Yeshua/Jesus called themselves for the same amount of time.
Whatever you choose – don’t be a square circle.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal