growing number of Christians are viewing the contemporary Messianic
movement with suspicion, confusion, ambivalence or outright opposition.
Some reveal thinly veiled anti-Jewish sentiment. Others have genuine
theological concern about a movement they'd love to be supportive of.
That was then, this is now
The Messianic movement ought to be seen in its own right as a genuine
cultural expression of faith in Jesus the Messiah. Messianic Jews must be
allowed the right of self definition and self determination that all other
cultural groups in the worldwide body of Messiah have been afforded. In
the city where I live in there are churches catering for thirty-four
different national groups. Each of these churches seems to function
without any criticism of their distinctiveness. And few voices are raised
calling for those attending ex-patriot English churches in foreign
countries to join the indigenous church of that country.
The modern Messianic Jewish movement is a vibrant, diverse and ever growing phenomenon. The theological problems it faces are carbon copies of those faced by most denominations and church groupings. For example, the Sunday or Sabbath debate has resulted in Seventh Day Adventists whilst Trinity confusion has given us the Oneness Pentecostals and Unitarians. The debate over the place of the Torah in the life of the believer has given the Church theonomy. Church history provides a dizzying list to reinforce this fact. The problems of the Messianic movement are the problems of the wider Church; they are not unique to Jewish disciples of Yeshua.
After talking about Messianic Jews in a sermon I was challenged by a lady
over coffee, "Why can't they be like the rest of us?" The answer is because
they are different! God created them different and to deny Messianic Jews
their cultural emancipation from what can often be characterized as white
European middle-class domination, is to deny God's created order. The
Messianic Movement is a challenge to lazy theology and disturbs the
stagnant equilibrium of those nominal Christians who think that
Christianity and European culture are synonymous.
The Messianic movement is a Protestant phenomenon. It does what all Protestant protest movements have done, but with a Hebrew accent. For generations Protestants have moved away from error and towards the truth. The New Testament followers of "The Way" were nicknamed Christians and because of nominal cultural religion, Christians have needed to define themselves as Born Again, Evangelical, Spirit filled, Reformed, Pentecostal, Baptist, Grace Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Free Methodist, Presbyterian, Free Presbyterian, Charismatic, and the list goes on. Messianic Jews are often condemned for not using the English transliteration of the Greek word Christianos. However there are some who talk about the Reformed Faith, Anglican Communion etc. without mentioning the word Christian. Yet when Messianic Jews participate in this Protestant continuum, they are accused of being ashamed of Christ. Messianic Jews affirm their devotion to the Messiah by calling themselves followers of Messiah but it is unfettered by the assumptions history has attached to the word Christian.
It is often conveniently forgotten that according to Romans 11, it is the Gentile wild olive branches that are grafted into the Jewish olive tree, not visa versa. In the light of this, perhaps the question we should be asking is, "Why are Christians not worshipping with Messianic Jews?"
Oneness in Christ does not require physical proximity. If that were the case
there should only be one megachurch per city. The Messianic movement is
part of the one flock, one body of Messiah Yeshua, whether people go to a
building called a church or not. Many postmodern Christians are following
the house church or even cell group model without being stigmatized. The
Brethren went to the Assembly or Gospel Hall – not "church" – and so the
parallels continue. The emerging church is moving away from organizational
religion and seeking to meet the challenges of a postmodern Europe that is
cynical of state religion. They are not criticized to the same extent that
the Messianic Movement is for doing a similar thing.