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Why I’m A Jew

So, I recently did a fairly quick read through the New Testament. I thought about a lot of things while reading. One question that stuck out repeatedly was, when and why did Christianity ever break off of Judaism to become its own religion instead of remaining a Jewish sect? I’d never really thought much about it before, it’s just the way that things have been since I’ve been born. Christianity is one religion, Judaism is another. But sometimes just because that is the way that things are, doesn’t mean that it makes sense.

First, if ethnicity defines who is and who is not Jewish, then I’m not a Jew. Not at all. But if being Jewish has to do with things that are far more meaningful, then I’m so Jewish it’s ridiculous. Jesus was a Jew, and I’m trying to be like my master. I’m currently trying out calling myself a Jew for a while because of my religious beliefs, descent, and being a member of God’s chosen people.

I believe in the religion of Judaism completely. I may not believe in the same things that modern orthodox Jews do, but I believe in the Hebrew Bible. I believe in the Law and the Prophets. Christianity doesn’t really make sense unless it is talked about within the Jewish contexts. Christ means Messiah and the concept of Messiah in Christianity only has real significance when we think about Jesus as being the Jewish Messiah, because that is what He is. If we separate it from Judaism, we have a really loose idea that probably isn’t an accurate reflection of who Jesus Messiah actually is. What He means to the world really only makes sense when we understand what it means to be the Jewish Messiah. All of the meaning Jesus has for the world is contained within what he means for Judaism. I’m a Jew by religion.

One thing he means for Judaism is a new way of tracing descent to ancestors. John the Baptist hints about this when he tells the critical lawyers that their claims of Abraham as their father are meaningless and that God can make children of Abraham from stones if He wants to. Jesus hints at the ties of blood relationships not being the important ones (save for his blood), but it is faith in the Messiah and faithfulness to YHWH that create the true family ties. Paul explains this new descent pretty well in Romans 9. Read it. An oversimplification of his argument is that not all ethnic Israel is Israel, but it is those who have put their faith in Jesus Messiah that are true Israel. Even though this was different than man expects, YHWH has always traced descent differently than man’s choice and the true descendants of Abraham have never been the natural children, but those by faith through the promise of God. Paul argues that Gentiles who believe in Jesus now trace their ancestry to Abraham, through Isaac, through Israel (Jacob). By faith I am an Israelite by descent and a true child of Abraham.

Through Jesus bringing me into Judaism and making me a citizen of true Israel, I am a member of God’s chosen people. In Galatians my beloved Jewish brother Paul outlines that by faith in the Christ I am a son of God. Not only that, but by a lack of faith in what Jesus Messiah did and an insistence on being under the law, those who were once children of the promise are now children of the slave women. They who were of Israel are now of Ishmael. Paul in Romans describes this process using a tree as a metaphor. Former Jews were cut off of the tree who did not put their faith in Jesus Messiah, but those who once were not a part of the tree, through faith in Jesus Messiah, are grafted onto the tree. Through faith in and faithfulness to Jesus, I am now a member of elect, the chosen people of God.

The best question anyone has asked me when I told them I was a Jew is, “Why?” Well, that’s an excellent question. Honestly people, at most levels I don’t really think that considering oneself a part of any religion or specific denomination is that important at all. Honestly, prior to becoming Jewish, I was hesitant to call myself “Christian.” I’m not afraid of the word, and it would be awesome if people called me a Christian because I reminded them of the Messiah, but I didn’t like to call myself that because it associates me with a religion so big and broad it means essentially nothing. Since calling myself Jewish, I feel more grounded in history, no longer an individual treading water in the middle of the ocean, but on a cruise ship that has a goal and purpose it has been heading toward since time began.

I have never really felt comfortable finding my identity in being American/United Statesman. I don’t really care much for my Norwegian heritage. The food is pretty boring anyway. I don’t really like the idea of throwing my hat in with the whole Christian religion thing either. I feel like by doing so I would be associating myself with things I don’t think Jesus would be associated with. But being a Jew as a member of the Fulfilled Judaism sect sounds pretty awesome to me. It connects with my heart.

I now feel solidarity with stories I never felt linked to before. It was my father Abraham that left Ur in faith. It was my people that were in slavery and God freed. It was my ancestors who got the law and, like me, were set apart as a people to be a light to the world by living an obedient life of love toward God. It was my people who sinned and were exiled and were awaiting restoration. It was my people who received Jesus Messiah to, through his faithfulness, save them from their sin and redeem the results of their unfaithfulness to the covenant. These stories are my stories.

Cuz I’m a Jew.

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