I was raised to think the way that I believe most Christians are taught. It’s a sad reality and something that I’m not proud of. By raised, I simply mean that it was the message portrayed through various mediums, not necessarily my family. Everything around me seemed to reinforce that belief.
I’m talking about the separation we place between the church and Israel. A divide that was never meant to exist. A wall of separation, well over a thousand years in the making. A mentality that we inherited from our forefathers. And it runs deep!
I see it in the faces of many of my Christian brothers and sisters. I hear it on the radio, in certain podcasts, in books that have been talked about. History is littered with it too. I’ve even experienced the hostility myself, as a Christian, from other Christians. Six years ago I began a journey into the heart of the Lord’s Holy Feasts, talked about in Leviticus 23 and referenced through out the entire Bible. When some people heard I was doing this, they labeled me legalistic, and worse yet, questioned whether or not I was joining a cult. Neither of these could be further from the truth. I’ve also tried to be intentional about honoring the Sabbath, where I’ve been met with nearly equal criticism.
What is it about the Old Testament that is so threatening to modern western Christianity? Even in asking that question I shudder. I know people would never admit that their disposition towards the things of Israel and the Old Testament were hostile, but it sure seems prevalent. It’s as though the Christian Church has adopted a doctrine of ‘us and them’. Or even a position of ‘then and now’. What I mean is, it is taught that the destinies of Israel and the church are different. That God has replaced the nation of Israel with the church as His chosen people. That God no longer cares about the things of the Old Testament, only the new. Has that been your experience? How did we come to this? Here are some of my thoughts.
When the church was being born during the first few centuries AD, many Christians endured unthinkable evils at the hands of the Roman Empire. It was often due to local Jewish leaders causing a fuss and turning in Christians. It was a way of redirecting persecution off of them onto a controversial minority group. Over time, a divide was erected, even among believers who were once Jewish.
#2-Marriage with Paganism
In the forth century AD, the Christian Church got an influx of pagan rituals, most of which we can see in the idolatrous symbols in some churches, and in the celebrations of Christmas and Easter (both of which were pagan holidays long before any Christian celebrated them). Over time, the mingling of ideologies and practices drew followers of Christ further and further from their roots.
I highly doubt that any Bible-believing Christian today would admit to being anti-Semitic, but the disposition is as prevalent in the world today as it ever has been. Unfortunately, some in the church haven’t been immune to it. Sometimes it can be so subtle that someone may be completely unaware.
As the gap between Jew and Christian widened, people lost touch with practices and teachings that were thousands of years old. Today, most people are simply Bible illiterate, especially when it comes to the Old Testament. I think with that, comes a sense of fear.
We are so easily influenced and informed by the culture we grow up in. It’s true for everyone. Many of the Old Testament writings were from 3000-4000 years ago. Times have changed a lot in some ways. Not so much in others. And the Old Testament requires being culturally set apart as much as the New.
I don’t believe that any of these reasons, no matter how legitimate they seem, warrant where we are today. I mean think about it. How could we ever excuse shaming and ostracizing a believer who chooses to honor what the Bible teaches? But it’s like some people honestly think that if someone follows the Biblical dietary guidelines, keeps the Sabbath, celebrates God’s Holy Feasts, Studies Hebrew, etc…that they are somehow less Christian. That doesn’t make any sense.
When Jesus came, He did so to destroy the separation between Israel and the world. Israel was not fulfilling its role as the light of the world, to draw people to God. Instead, they had more times than not, merged with the world. The merger was supposed to happen the other way around. The nations of the world were supposed to see God’s glory and goodness through the nation of Israel and be drawn. Enter Jesus. He demonstrated the teachings of the Old Testament, and the character of God, the way Israel was meant to…the way humanity was supposed to. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus brought down the wall of separation forever. He grafted (Romans 11) the nations into Israel and made us all one through faith in Him.
“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
Ephesians 2:11-22 ESV
It is no longer us and them. It can’t be. Jesus is the bond of peoples. He isn’t the gate through the wall of separation, He’s the wrecking ball that leveled the wall to the ground. We’ve been the ones, on both sides I admit, that have been rebuilding it. We do our Savior a great disservice if we allow ourselves to fall prey to any of the aforementioned reasons for the division that exists. We cannot allow prejudices to dictate our thoughts. We are about loving God and loving others. The ‘us and them’ mentality can’t harbor love. It is not Israel and the church. It is the Children of God, through faith in Christ. And when God calls a people His, they are His forever.
I implore you, brothers and sisters, to do your part to take down the wall, one brick at a time. Don’t allow unfamiliarity, prejudices, the culture, or history to estrange you from your Hebrew roots. Be the instrument of peace and unity where you are. Together, we can turn back the tide of fear and misconceptions and walk in the path of love and humility. Along the way, maybe we’ll all be changed by the Holy Spirit.