The ‘us and them’ mentality

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.

#1-Persecution

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.

#3-Antisemitism

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.

#4-Unfamiliarity

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.

#5-Changing Culture

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.

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Marriage Series #2: One not Two

two-become-one

This is the second post in a five part series on marriage. In the last post I talked about how we need to view our purpose in getting married. This post is more focused on what happens to people when they do “tie the knot” as the old adage goes.

I think that a lot of conflict in marriage results from having a two person mentality. What I mean by that is that we still view a marriage as two people in a relationship with one another. Isn’t that what it is? Not exactly. I’m going to try and use a rough illustration so bear with me please. Lets pretend that the lovely couple getting married are two companies (weird I know). Many people look at marriage as though the two companies are signing a contract to work together on a joint venture. Contracts are mutual agreements and if one party doesn’t hold up their end of the deal, the contract is off. Two companies that write up contracts to work together remain two companies with separate identities. However, marriage isn’t meant to work like that. God designed marriage to be a merger. In a business merger, two companies see the advantage to joining forces and instead of signing a contract, they unite into one new company. Usually one company will take on the name of the other. I think you probably see the parallel I’m trying to draw.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24 (NIV) [my emphasis]

I know, I know, many people have taken this to mean that husbands and wives are to consummate their union through physical means. I’m not about to argue that it doesn’t mean that. I’m just saying that, like with the rest of scripture, there is far deeper implications than the surface level. When you get married, you are uniting with your spouse into one new entity just as the merging companies did in the illustration. As a result, you and your spouse are now meant to be joined in purpose and direction. Imagine if two merging companies decided on a different purpose and direction and pursued them. The new company would disintegrate pretty rapidly. There would be plenty of internal squabbling and unrest until they finally reached the point of “irreconcilable differences.” On the other hand, merged companies with a united purpose and direction will operate much more smoothly and be able to resolve differences in order to achieve the desired outcome.

This is an incredibly difficult concept to grasp, mainly because you are still you when you get married and your spouse is still your spouse. You don’t actually become one person physically. To operate as one, while not physically being one, is the essence of the marriage union. Success in this area requires extreme intimacy and openness. When communication breaks down, so does the system. There also has to be a high level of servant hood on the part of both members. A unique challenge to marriage is that two people, with two sets of dreams, two sets of talents, and two backgrounds, are now trying to coexist as one.  To overcome this challenge each person needs to commit to forming a new dream that they can help one another in achieving together. Each person also has to use their talents to compliment the other’s. That means we have to admit we aren’t perfect and the strengths of our spouse can help us overcome in areas of weakness. Each person should also commit to the new life they have begun together and only draw off of background experiences that can nourish their relationship. All of that is far easier said than done, I know.

Some may fail at this because they want to be the bigger company that their spouse is merging into. They place demands and expectations on their loved one rather than seeking to meet them half way. They place priority on their dreams, refusing to change course, while not even stopping to think if its God’s design for their life or consulting their spouse. They continue pursuing a life with, yet separate from, their partner. Over time their lives drift in different directions and resentment bubbles under the surface.

When we get married we have to realize that our spouse becomes as much of us as we are of ourselves. I hope that made sense. We have to embrace an entirely new outlook on our future because it is now inextricably linked with another. Jesus tells us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. When two people get married, they become one new house, one new person, with a direction that is meant to be unified. A couple that is joined in purpose and direction can endure, even the most difficult of times.

No matter where you are in your relationship, Jesus can be the captain of your course correction. He is our healer so there is no marriage that is too fractured. Jesus also has to be the unified vision of our marriage. Pursuing Him brings us together in a real and very spiritually deep way (More on that in a later post). If you’re not married, this is a great time to consider what it will mean for you if you make that commitment some day in the future. You’ll be saying goodbye to yourself and hello to the new you that is joined with the love of you life. That’s pretty awesome.

Follow Up: These are great things to ponder on your own or use to talk with your loved one. Blessings!

1- Have you been pursuing your own dreams, possibly at the expense of your spouse?

2- Do you have a unified vision as a couple that you help one another to reach?

3- Is your ‘house’ divided in any way? If so, what part can you take to bring unity?

4- What talents does your spouse have that compliments you and helps the marriage to thrive? What do you bring to the table?

5- Are you pursuing Jesus as a couple?

How’s your reflection?

We are all made in God’s image. What we believe and how we live our lives will determine whether we reflect that or not. It has nothing to do with race or nationality, income or occupation. It has everything to do with Jesus.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Colossians 3:1-11 (ESV)

 

Anti-Trump Protesters Are Making Him Look a Whole Lot Better

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I’ll keep this short and to the point. No matter the words that Trump spoke during his campaign that made him out to be a divisive and crude candidate, those words are now being overshadowed but an angry hate-filled mob. Perhaps one of the best things that could’ve happened to help his image was to have many of those who don’t support him and the election put on a vulgar display as many of them have done since Election Day. Don’t get me wrong, the only thing that will completely erase his shady past will be if his actions now as a President, husband, and father reflect a humble and repentant heart with a desire to serve the best interests of this nation.

His opponents say that he will tear this nation apart. So what do many of them do? They lead march after march and paint their foreheads with labels like, “not my president” and smash windows and vandalize buildings. All of these protests serve one purpose: they breed division. They’ve even gone so far as to call upon our electoral college to ignore the popular votes on their states. Are you kidding me? I am not a fan of Trump’s character which is the biggest reason I didn’t vote for him,  but every bit of hate speech spoken by his opponents makes them look a whole lot worse. Some people continue to say how much they fear they have with a Trump presidency yet it’s been Trump supporters who have been beaten on the streets.

This post is by no means meant to prop up Donald Trump or make him out to be a stand-up guy. Only time will reveal his current character and ability to be our President. But I would just plead with my fellow countrymen who are causing controversies and division, striking fear, and spreading vile speech on social media and in the streets to stop and take a good long look at what they are doing and saying. They say they want a nation of inclusion and peace yet they are doing things to create the exact opposite atmosphere. I am a huge fan and advocate for the democratic process and free speech but the Anti-Trump movement has been the epitome of hypocrisy. Want inclusion? Be inclusive. Want peace and unity in our nation? Be unified. Fear an administration that is discriminatory? Don’t discriminate. After all, its not our president who sets the cultural and ethical patterns of society; It’s society itself.

Let’s be the example of love, unity, peace, kindness, and goodness that we want to see in our leadership.