Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Looming Crisis

At the conference I have learned of something to pray about, for Messianic Judaism globally. A new "hot issue" will come to the forefront within the next few months that threatens our unity in the Body of Messiah.

The issue is not about Gentile followers of Yeshua becoming circumcised. Scripture is clear that this is not necessary, and in general, not wise. The book of Galatians is especially emphatic that we should not allow the local rabbinical community define what is "Jewish" for believers.

The issue is not about people who have Jewish lineage but were not raised in a very Jewish home. Scripture is clear that in God's eyes no one can be 1/2 or 1/16 Jewish because only one parent or one great-grandparent was Jewish: either you are Jewish or you are not; you are a participant in the Sinai Covenant or you are not. And at a Messianic Jewish congregation, one role of B'nei Mitzvah training is to help people who feel 1/16 Jewish to feel 100% Jewish.

The issue is about the children of an intermarried couple. For legal reasons, especially relating to making Aliyah to Israel, it has been suggested that the Messianic Jewish movement develop a ceremony to allow the Gentile in a mixed marriage to formally convert to Judaism for the sake of the couple's children having a legally clear Jewish identity. Naturally, this would only apply when the Gentile spouse felt called to formally participate in the Sinai Covenant, rather than enjoying the better freedom to keep which parts he or she wanted as voluntary expressions of love and dedication to God. But this Gentile spouse would still be entering an eternal covenant for no needed personal reason (instead for the sake of his or her children) and scripture seems to lack obvious guidance about if this would please God.

On one had, intermarriage was for the ancient Israelites a way for upcoming generations to be considered part of Israel. On the other hand, in that setting the Gentile spouse did not become Jewish. Ruth was still considered a Moabitess even after marrying (sequentially) two Jewish men. The laws back then were different, and this is at its core a legal issue.