A Jewish person’s Jewishness is, by definition, conferred by circumstance of birth. For most Jewish believers, to ignore this God-given distinction is to disparage the rich heritage God has bestowed on us to share with the world.
While the church consists of believing Jews and Gentiles together in a new creation (Gal. 6:15; Eph. 3:6), most Christians think of today’s church as existing of only Gentiles.
So when friends in the church speak of Jewish believers assimilating into the larger “Christian” culture, they usually mean a “Gentile” culture.
Rather than downplaying the Jewishness of fellow believers, the church should celebrate the continued existence of the “remnant of Israel” as a wonderful example of God’s grace and faithfulness. We should revel in our distinctions because our unity is that much more captivating to the observing world. How interesting is a monochromatic tapestry?
So, what can our churches do to embrace Jewishness? Here are some suggestions.
• Pray for the salvation of the Jewish people.
• Activate programs and creative ideas for Jewish evangelism. The Jewish community in America and abroad is still a largely unreached people group, despite their historic and cultural nearness to the gospel.
• Support Jewish missions and teaching ministries.
• Go to Israel and invite fellow church members to join you. Experiencing the land promised to the chosen people can greatly enhance a believer’s love and concern for the Jewish people.
• Celebrate the messianic fulfillment of a Jewish festival such as Passover or Tabernacles. Host a Passover seder.
• Encourage the Jewish believers in your congregation. These believers often feel “out of sync” with their Gentile siblings. They are often a tiny minority of one or only a few and perceive themselves as living between two worlds.
• Create and implement a bar mitzvah/bat mitzvah celebration within the church for Jewish believing thirteen-year-olds. Confirmation catechisms and the like need not substitute for following the biblical customs of our ancestors.
The liturgy of most church traditions, of “high” or “low” orientation, is replete with substitutions, equivalents, and copies of traditional Hebrew customs and ceremonies. If the ancient Jewish customs are shadows of things to come and they all have their essence in Christ Himself (Col. 2:16–17), their enactment can only be of benefit to the church (Eph. 4:12–13).
A great example of God’s historic and ongoing faithfulness is to be found in the preservation of a believing remnant. From the times of the patriarchs through the coming future tribulation, God has sovereignly preserved a remnant of Jews who trust in Him to keep His promises and bring His program to completion (Rom. 9–11). The enduring, organic, and growing remnant of Israel, the very Israel of God, shines as a luminous beacon of God’s faithfulness throughout history, past, present, and future.
Steven Ger (ThM, 1994), a Jewish Christ-follower, is director of Sojourner Ministries, whose vision is to explore the Jewish heart of Christianity.