How balanced has the Church been?
I have wrestled with the concept of "One New Man" for many years. A website, Saltshakers, that I co-founded around 17 years ago, has had the verse from Ephesians as its strap line, with a vague desire to see Jews and Gentiles in perfect, seamless, sincere fellowship. Oh what a naive dreamer I was! The most visible initiatives in the Christian world to attain this dream have been Messianic fellowships and "One New Man" networks and, worthy though the intentions are, they still trouble me.
What I see is a reaction, a pent-up release after sixteen hundred years of frustration, injustice, persecution and, let's be frank, hellishness. In that period, the Jewish element wasn't just lost to the church, but deliberately seared away with white-hot tongs. A sixteen century travesty is hard to forgive and forget just like that. So what we get is a reaction. A reaction by Jewish believers who look to break away from the hurtful past and create something new, outside the established Church, fuelling liturgy, beliefs and practice in a thoroughly Hebraic way but having little to do with the rest of the Body of Christ. Don't call us Christians, we're messianic believers. Don't call us a Church, we're a messianic fellowship.
There is also a reaction from the Gentile believers, who have had issues with the established Church. Many have felt the hurt of the past on behalf of the Jews and seek to make amends, sometimes in dramatic fashion. We're with you, my Jewish brothers and sisters. We don't want anything to do with the Church that has fostered and promoted anti-Semitism for so long.
This is reaction, reaction, reaction. What does this give us? It can give us fellowships that are so thoroughly messianic and Hebraic that you'd think you're entering a synagogue with added Jesus. This can't be the true "One New Man", as envisaged by Paul. Yes, you have Jews and Gentiles worshipping Jesus together, but it's not in a balanced way, the scales are rigged, it is over-compensation and does not speak to me as unity in the Body of Christ. Jews and Gentile may be there in body, but in mind and spirit they are drowning in sentimental chicken soup.
Everything within me that speaks of justice, to say nothing of the Jew within, proclaims, hey you Gentiles have had your chance, surely the times of the Gentiles are now over, it's the turn of the Jews. Are we saying that we are promoting a form of reverse replacement theology? That everything is Jewish now? That all things Gentile must be expunged from the Church (as was the Jewish element all those years ago) and replaced with the Jewish roots? That the Jewish roots should rise from the ground and strangle the whole tree? This can't be right, can it?
So, what am I saying? What is the solution? Well, we can start by removing obstacles to Jewish people from receiving the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. (Romans 11:11)
Paul lays it down quite clearly. The Jews as a whole have stumbled and missed out, but God hasn't given up on them but expects them to look at Gentile Christians with envy and say, "I want what they've got".
I want what they've got. Can they honestly look at today's Church and say that? The Church has treated Jews horrendously in the past, but that is all behind us now and we must look to the present and the future. We need to look again at "One New Man".
"Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called 'uncircumcised' by those who call themselves 'the circumcision' (that done in the body by the hands of men) - remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility". (Ephesians 2:11-16)
Historically this never happened. If it had, then the Greek elements would never have made such inroads into our Biblical faith. The Jewish elements would have flourished and formed solid foundations for the House of God that would have been built up and dwelt in by Jews and Gentiles, in equal partnership.
Of course this is all conjecture and fanciful thinking and we can only deal with what has been handed down to us. The past is done with but the worst thing we can do is to allow it to shackle us, to hold us back, believing that it's too late to change our ways. It is NEVER too late to change our ways. God Himself is going to do something new with the Jews one day:
"Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved ..." (Romans 11:25,26
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Way: And How it Can Find it Again)