Last night a group of us from several churches and synagogues gathered to celebrate Rosh Chodesh at my home. It was a wonderful time of fellowship, prayer, celebration, and Torah talk. The conversation extended into the wee hours of the morning and at times was quite…lively.
Then this morning I caught up with email and found several comments added to Pete Rambo’s blog Boaz Michael’s Tent of David. And while the subject matter was different, the conversation was similar and seemed just as lively. (I must say that I love when iron sharpens iron – the back of forth of ideas and understandings while digging into the layers of God’s word.)
Pete’s blog is a review of Boaz Michael’s book, Tent of David, where Boaz asks Gentiles to consider staying in the church, or returning to it from Messianic congregations. As I said, the subject matter was not the same, but the conversation we had last night dealt with the issue of varying beliefs – which I saw played out on Pete’s blog. I just had to laugh at God’s definitive punctuation mark to the lesson I learned last night.
The discussion last night (this morning?) involved the 2nd temple period and how there were 24 sects of Judaism at the time. We compared this to the various denominations that exist within Christendom. One of the guys pointed out that this is okay; God has a purpose in all this.
But what struck me most is something I’ve been pondering for a while now, in my position of leadership. And this, I believe, speaks to the varying beliefs expressed in the comments on Pete’s blog.
So let me back up a bit so you can follow the conversation as it progressed through the night.
First, we discussed the varying sects of Judaism during the 2nd temple period. Since ‘the Way’ was one of them, that flowed into the development of the church through Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy to Protestantism and on into non-denominationalism which wants to get back to the ‘church’ of Acts. However, without the foundation of Torah understanding, much of the New Testament is difficult to understand, leading to believers referring to God’s Torah as bad and bringing death.
As we discussed the separation of the church from Judaism and Torah observance, I posed the question – the one that’s been bugging me – “Who is Jesus referring to when he says, ‘I never knew you.’?”
One of the guys said it has to do with the integrity of the heart. If someone is living their life in accordance with their understanding of God’s word, then they are walking in integrity. Their faith is walked out in their life.
My friend pointed to James’ statement in the book of Acts (paraphrased), “Let the Gentiles be part of us and they will learn through teaching.”
So I threw in, what about overt sin, like homosexuality, what do we do with that? I know we are all sinners, but as one who has a shepherd’s heart, I think about the young believer and want to protect the flock. For instance, what do we do with the Casanova who joins the group looking to score with a lady? And then there’s the challenge that if we kick them out of our fellowship, they just go to the church down the street. How does that help them?
The response was that we teach in love. We plant the seed and trust Hashem to work it out. How do we know that the seed we planted in the one who left wasn’t the very seed needed at that church down the street?
For me, this was a paradigm shift, much as the realization that I’d misunderstood Paul’s writings for over 30 years. And having this new perspective, I can look at the varying beliefs within Messianic Judaism and Christianity with the knowledge that none of us has it right. But when we walk out what it is we do believe, the integrity of that walk speaks to the desire to be obedient.
And this, as my friend pointed out, is why Paul could say that Gentiles, without Torah, were following Torah. They obeyed what they understood and James knew that as they learned more, they would obey more.
So how does this all relate to Pete’s blog? The comments that followed his post prove that we all have a different understanding of how to walk out Torah. And that’s okay because when Messiah returns, he’ll clear it all up and we will all be one, we’ll all have the same understanding. Pete’s blog was the punctuation mark that ended the lesson, as I saw the same types of questions and responses, albeit with different subject matter.
Now for one who is black and white, who likes things neat and tidy, this is definitely out of my comfort zone. But I am grateful to receive this new perspective because the frustration with others not grasping my point of view melts away and in its place is love and patience, grace and mercy.
And as I look at myself I can relax, knowing that I have not yet arrived, but can trust the One who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than I can ask, think, or imagine.