Am I Jewish?

I was asked recently if I am Jewish. (When I told somebody I was Messianic, she said “Wow, I didn’t realise you were Jewish”) It was a rhetorical statement rather than a question so I didn’t need to respond to it directly. But the answer is yes… but no… but it’s complicated.

I came very, very close to converting to Reform Judaism (I looked at Orthodox Judaism too) some years ago but, in the end, I decided that it wasn’t the right path for me simply because Jesus was too central to my life and thinking to give up. But in the process of studying and being in Judaism I discovered that being Jewish is much more than religion – it is a people and culture (and country!) that I love, and so I consider myself Jew-ish.

The name I took (Shoshana) is now an integral part of my identity. As the convert Ruth said, your people will be my people, your God will be my God. So in the simplest Ruth-ite sense, I consider myself one with the Jewish people even if I am not recognised as such.

But more than that I realised that, through Messiah, I am grafted in to the Olive Tree of Israel, as are all believers, whether or not they recognise either themselves or natural Israel as in any way connected.

I have taken a lot of Judaism (sabbath, the festivals, food and music etc) back into my Christianity, because I love it and I believe it is good and true. A lot of people don’t like it but I’m not about to conform to please people. And for a long time, I agonised over having one foot in both camps, but now I’m comfortable in that position.

I consider myself to be standing in the gap, a repairer of the breach. The nation of Israel and the Jewish people need the support and friendship of Christians, now more than ever. Those of us who are in the mainstream church can and should be a voice for Israel and the Jewish people for as long as they are able to be. The church, meanwhile, needs to rediscover the roots of its own faith in Biblical Judaism and it needs to be restored to the truth of Torah.

As I explained to a new believer recently, the antinomianism of the modern church is a very new phenomenon. The Roman Catholic church believed in law, but it believed that having the ‘keys of the kingdom’ meant that it could discard God’s Law and replace it with its own. The protestant church rejected that claim, but traditionally divided God’s Law into moral, ceremonial and civil / judicial, and kept only that which it considered to fall under the category of moral law. Messianic believers on the other hand see no basis for such a division.

Increasingly though, and very sadly, even so-called evangelical churches are becoming antinomian, crucially misunderstanding the nature of the Law, the nature of sin and the nature of sanctification. I was told recently by an evangelical group that ‘Christ put an end to the Law’, adding that the Law was only for Jews. That really is a twisting of the truth that Messiah fulfilled the Law, setting us free. It is not Law that we need to be freed from, however, but sin (Why would gentiles need to be freed from Jewish Law?!). But thanks to the so easily misunderstood writings of Paul, taken out of context, these misapprehensions persist.

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