In the last few weeks here at KNI (and, honestly, going back much further in the broader Messianic Jewish community) there has been a sometimes heated discussion on the necessity, or lack thereof, for Believers, bother Jewish and Gentile, to be “Torah observant.” Although this discussion can get quite heated because we all have our positions and we all believe the Bible supports our positions and refutes opposing positions, it is quite necessary to have these discussions if the Body of Messiah is going to move forward in the plans and purposes God has for us in this season of history.
Now, in the course of my own participation in this discussion I have learned many things and, frankly, my thoughts on this subject have evolved. I have long thought, and still believe, that the New Testament gives very specific and unambiguous warnings against allowing “Torah observance” to become a stumbling block or a cause of unprofitable disputes among brethren (which it undeniably has the potential to do). But I have also been challenged by some of the reasons given to me by people who are very favourable to “Torah observance” and I would like to put aside all the other aspects of this discussion and just zero in on one specific reason I was presented with.
A brother said to me that although “Torah observance” is not necessary for salvation, it is God’s plan for Jewish Believers (although not necessarily Gentiles) to preserve us as a special people set apart for a special purpose. Without “Torah observance” Jewish Believers will lose their special identity and become indistinguishable from Gentile Believers. In other words, they would become “assimilated” into Gentile Christianity, which is not what God would want to happen.
Here’s what I think about that.
First off, there’s no denying that “Torah observance” played a crucial role in preserving Jewish identity over the 2,000 years of exile in the Diaspora. It is also undeniable (and this will no doubt ruffle some feathers) that the exile is now a voluntary one (some readers might begin to sense where I’m going with this) and that the role of “Torah observance” in the preservation of a unique Jewish identity has concurrently also become a voluntary matter.
With that in mind, I believe many people who say they are “Torah observant” because they believe it pleases God are being at best partially honest, and they’re really doing it primarily to feed their own fleshly desire to think of themselves as special in the eyes of God.
If you’re offended and/or hurt by that, I’m sorry. If you’re convicted by that, don’t worry, you can thank me later.
Be that as it may, if you’re a Jewish Believer living in the Diaspora and you’re committed to being “Torah observant” because although you know it’s not necessary for your salvation it IS necessary to preserve your unique Jewish identity and not be “assimilated” into the wider Gentile Evangelical Christian world, the solution is heartbreakingly obvious.
Get out of the Diaspora!
Come home, where you can live out your Jewish identity the same way we do, by serving in and/or sending your children to serve in the military, voting (and perhaps even running) in elections, participating in the building up of our homeland and participating in community events and affairs, speaking the language of the Bible and all the other things that make Israel the Jewish State.
That can also include openly and unapologetically worshipping and serving the Lord God Jesus Christ just like all the rest of the Evangelical Protestants while still observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher if you believe it’s necessary (but no one will force you to) and keeping all the Biblical Feasts because they’re all paid vacation days from work. You will be free here to retain whatever level of “Torah observance” you’re comfortable with and/or feel obligated to keep, without any pressure to do so out of a feeling of compulsion to retain a Jewish identity which, when you live in Israel, is not reliant on being “Torah observant” to any specific degree.
If there’s something holding you back from taking this step, whether it’s a job/career or a business or a “dream home” or a community that you’re particularly attached to or a pension plan that you’re invested in or whatever it may be, I’ve got great news. You’re going to lose all that stuff sooner or later (but probably sooner) no matter what you do, so you might as well give it up for the sake of gaining the opportunity outlined in the previous two paragraphs.
May God give us all His wisdom and clarity on this and all other topics.