It's Not the Gentiles' Fault, But They Can Be Part of the Solution

February 23, 2015

I have said it before, and need to say it again. If there is anything wrong with the Messianic Jewish Movement, blame should not be laid at the feet of the large numbers of gentiles who have joined the movement. Any problems we have are more likely due to a lack of clarity on leadership vision.  If the leaders of the movement had maintained greater clarity on why God raised up this movement they would have been more specific about community formation and purpose.  Nevertheless, even without this clarity, the movement has grown, and lots of hard work has been done for which credit must be given.  But much of that growth has been the product of market forces. The people who wanted what the movement offered, or what they thought it offered, have flooded in, determining its constituency and trajectory,  Most often, those people were not Jews at all, but gentiles. Many imagined the Messianic Movement to be a more biblical and therefore more faithful form of Yeshua-faith than could be found anywhere else. Gentiles joined the movement "to celebrate the feasts" or "to keep the law" (most often in various idiosyncratic ways).  Some were from sectarian groups which naively labeled the church as "apostate" because it does not "celebrate the feasts and keep the law."

Whatever the details in individual cases, increasingly those gentiles who have joined the movement have been driven by their own needs rather than by a desire to serve the purposes of God for the Jewish people. And this is not their fault. Who can blame someone for joining the movement to have their own needs met, especially when another purpose is not strongly held forth as a more appropriate alternative?

Someone should have told them, and strongly, "This is not what this movement is about," But what purposes was it meant to serve?

On a human level, the congregational movement was meant to be a place where Jewish believers in Jesus could raise their children to believe as they did while maintaining continuity with the Jewish people and ways of life, if not vigorously so, at least with some intentionality. They were also  zealous to see other Jews believe in Yeshua  as they had.  These are purposes "from below"--on the human plane But the purposes from above, from God's perspective, what were they?  Why did God raise up the Messianic Jewish Movement?

It is my conviction that God raised up the Messianic Jewish Movement that we might be a seed, a sign, a demonstration, and a catalyst of God's consummating purposes for the Jewish people. And it is in through accomplishing these purposes for the Jewish people that God would bring great benefit to the rest of the world. Paul says of the Jewish people, "What will their fulness bring but life from the dead!"  The Jews entering into the fulness that God intended for them would trigger the general resurrection: party time for the entire cosmos.

About 2600 years ago, the Prophet Ezekiel provided a helpful sketch of what Israel's  fullness looks like. Here is what he says in his chapter 37, verses 21-28:

  1. God will gather the Jewish people to the Land from all the nations: “Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all sides, and bring them to their own land” (Ezk 37:21). 
  2. God will unify the Jewish people as one nation in the Land: “and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms” (Ezk 37:22).
  3. God will spiritually renew this nation as a nation (repentance-renewal): “They shall not defile themselves any more with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezk 37:23).
  4. God will gather all Israel (Clal Yisrael) around our Davidic King, Messiah Yeshua: “My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd” (Ezk 37:24a).
  5. God will cause all Israel to live in covenant faithfulness, obeying God’s ordinances and statutes--Torah Faithfuness: “They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes” (Ezk 37:24b). .
  6. God will bring this nation to a full and relational experience of the Divine Presence: “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Ezk 37:26-27).
  7. God will vindicate God’s name in the sight of the nations through vindicating Israel as His people and Hismelf as their God: “Then the nations will know that I the LORD sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezk 37:28).

These seven points constitute the proper core agenda for the Messianic Jewish Movement, which is meant to be a seed, a sign, a demonstration, and a catalyst of all of these separately and together.

If the movement had shaped its agenda and constituencey in accord with these purposes, the gentiles who joined would be here to help bring these purposes to pass. But since these purposes have not been the driving purpose of the Messianic Jewish Movement, no one should blame the gentiles in the movement for being engaged in addressing other needs--needs of their own.

They are not at fault. Someone should have told them at the door. Thankfully I have met some gentiles in the movement who "get" all of this and who really want to serve God's purposes for the Jewish people. Such people can be part of the solution.

I would suggest that the questions leaders of the movement should ask and answer now are, "What should we be doing now? What can we do? What will it cost in human sacrifice, and are we willing to pay the price? And how are we prepared to be a seed, a sign, a demonstration and a catalyst of God's consummating purposes for the Jewish people?"

Or should the movement just continue with things as they are?

These are hard questions. I will leave it to others to determine how important these questions are, and how they are to be answered.

What do you think?




2 comments on “It's Not the Gentiles' Fault, But They Can Be Part of the Solution”

  1. Thoughtful article. I think that there is more talk on what to do with the "Gentile problem" in Messianic Jewish circles rather than the more important issue of the huge "Jewish problem". Though it is true there have not been gate keepers that understood a Jewish/Judaism vision for our movement and we have been flooded with some well meaning Gentiles and many more that have taken over many congregations and out of practicality and financial reality (if 90% of your congregants are Gentile - it would be hard to encourage them to go elsewhere and empty out the collection box).

    One important unasked question is not "why are there so many Gentiles?" but "why are there not more Jews?" Much of the problem we face is not too many Gentiles but too few Jews. We in reality need more Jews and rather than focusing on drawing Jews to our movement we spend so much time bemoaning that all we are drawing are Gentiles.

    Along with needing to focus on drawing Jews to our synagogues, rather than the easier and many cases unhealthier approach of running off Gentiles in the synagogue and also letting Gentile visitors "thanks for coming, don't come back" we also have to deal with the reality that as a non-Orthodox Judaism that we if we are open to drawing Jews of which 70% of non-Orthodox Jews are intermarrying (lower 56% figure includes the Orthodox) we will also by drawing new Jews in our midst will also be bringing in their Gentile spouses.

    Though it is important that their is leadership in the congregations that understands a Jewish Messianic Judaism vision and can see that the Gentiles in the congregation are helping the Jews fulfill their Ezekiel 37 call, it is also important that along with weeding the flock that those in leadership focus on drawing in Jews to our movement and building a Messianic Judaism that Jews want to join with and live within. It is easy to decry the masses of Gentiles and even run them off to boost our Jewish demographics by attrition it is much healthier to build our Jewish demographics by adding more Jews in our midst.

  2. I'm not seeing here any recommendations for how Yehezkel's 7 points may be viewed as purposes or a "core agenda" that MJ is meant to serve. I'm not sure it is even possible, because these are all efforts that HaShem is effecting. Now, MJs can contribute to #1 by making aliyah. Gentile affiliates with the MJ movement may contribute to it by supporting and encouraging MJs and all Jews to make aliyah. MJs can contribute to #5 by living faithfully in accordance with Torah, as defined by traditional Jewish interpretations of halakhah. For this to be fulfilled, perhaps gentiles may only contribute by stepping out of the way and not allowing anyone to hinder Jews from improving their observance. Perhaps these two will contribute to fulfillment of #4, and for adding more Jews into an MJ perspective and perhaps even into dedicated MJ congregations, but the prophecies seem to indicate that the arrival of the ben-David Messiah may be a prerequisite for the events of looking upon the pierced one and mourning and repenting that characterize #4. Non-Jews would seem to be the only ones who can really assist with HaShem's fulfillment of #7. The remainder seem to require response by Israeli Jews; and #2 needs to address not two nations, but an entire handful of them of various political viewpoints. [:)]

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