“What does it mean for you personally to adopt Jewish practices/theology?”
“You know, you really shouldn’t eat kosher. God freed us from the law, so you’re practicing false religion.”
Yeah, I’ve been fielding these questions and comments for a while. That last one has been my personal “favorite” since the challenge was issued a good four years ago. Still, it reveals a lot of confusion and tension within the Body of Christ. And that in turn begs the question, why does the Hebrew Roots movement illicit so much controversy?
Well, now that I’ve thrown that question out there, I’m not going to answer it. I’ll let you, dear readers, chew on it for a while. In the meantime, I’ll attempt to answer the first two questions as concisely as possible. J
The first answer is simple. I call Jesus Y’shua because … well, that’s His name! Jesus is the Anglicized rendering of Jesu (yay-soo), the Greek version of the Aramaic name Y’shua; which is in turn a contraction of the Hebrew Y’hoshua (Joshua). Y’shua is what His family, friends, and disciples murmured at His birth, called out along the dusty trail, shouted at His triumphant entry, and tearfully whispered at the foot of His cross. In contrast, the name “Jesus” carries with it all the weight of 2000 years of bad publicity and corrupted institutions. It reminds me of the line from the film A Knight’s Tale: “The pope may be French, but Jesus is English!” And in a way, isn’t that the attitude of the western church? We have lost our humility in the sense of remembering that we are the grafted branch, not the Vine itself. I call Him Y’shua because I understand how it feels to have your name butchered by the English language. My mother and husband are the only people who use my true name. I am okay with that, but it was a major driving force behind the shift in my heart. I imagine He enjoys hearing His name uttered in its original form as much as I do … particularly by His Bride.
The second answer is a bit more complex. … although, I confess it’s not too different from my answer to question #1.
In Christian culture, we often refer to the Bible as “God’s Love Letter.” And while it is a very profound metaphor, I have found it to be a very convicting and weighty one. Imagine pouring out your story to your Beloved: your personal history and family culture; your thoughts and dreams; your outpouring of love for your Beloved and your dreams for your life together … and your Beloved, after reading through the letter, decided to only pay attention to those parts that she decided were relevant to her? Would you be surprised? Hurt …?
Torah is essentially God’s way of introducing Himself to humanity. “Hello world, this is Me.” And to draw a tangible contrast, He called the children of Israel to be His ambassadors. “Be Holy because I am Holy.” (Leviticus 11:44) He designated a lifestyle that would enable the world see boundless fascets of His character. He showed, in no uncertain terms that: 1) He is a jealous God, demanding “all or nothing” as our love and devotion is concerned; 2) that He cares deeply about our physical, emotional, and spiritual health; and 3) He is not a respector of persons (all people are equal and all sins, also equal). And that’s just brushing the surface. As He implied to us at the banishing from Eden (Genesis 3:21 compared to 3:7), Torah confirms in detail that without the shedding of blood, there can be no redemption of sin.
Did you ever walk in your parent’s footprints as a child? I remember every first snowfall (few as they were). I never wanted to mar the beauty of the fresh blanket of snow. My parents often went out to collect firewood from our shed, and I would carefully walk behind them, trying to keep my feet in the depressions they’d already made. Yes, part of it was to preserve the beauty … but one particular winter, it was also because the drifts were so high I was terrified I would sink in and get stuck! I didn’t want to stumble.
When Y’shua walked the earth, he stepped in the way of Torah. Contrary to popular belief, not once did he break Torah or suggest that anyone else do. Instead, by His very life He fulfilled all of the promises of Torah (Matthew 5:17).
… but there’s more to it than that. Growing up as a home schooled child, a daily Bible study was the very foundation of my education. And no Scripture embedded itself more firmly into my child’s heart than the book of Ruth. Ruth has often been declared a “type” or foreshadowing of the Gospel. Simply put, a Gentile bride (Ruth) is introduced to the ways of her Kinsman Redeemer (Boaz) by her spiritual mother, a daughter of Zion (Naomi). In turn, upon her redemption, Ruth introduces Naomi to the person of Boaz; and Boaz moreover redeems Naomi and her inheritance in addition to Ruth. Now, if Ruth is a type of the Gentile Bride (the church); Naomi represents the Daughter of Zion (Israel); and Boaz in turn is a type of the Kinsman Redeemer (Y’shua) … the story is not yet complete. The Bride has been redeemed, but what of the Daughter of Zion and her inheritance (typified by a field, so I’m thinking land – either the Promised Land or the planet in general)? The metaphor is clear that Ruth adopted the ways of both her mother-in-law and her redeemer. It is also clear that she was personally invested in the Naomi’s restoration and reconciliation to Boaz’s household.
The story is not yet complete, and the full realization that the part that I (as part of the Gentile Bride) have to play has only begun … that epiphany rooted deeply in my heart at a very impressionable age. I must learn the ways of my Hebrew Messiah. And I must do my part to introduce the Daughter of Zion to Him. As an anthropologist, I also understand that the only way to introduce a people group to an unfamiliar idea is to first invest in their culture.
I am the Bride: I have covenanted to place myself under my Bridgroom’s headship, a part of his household.
I am the Grafted Branch: my very lifeforce flows from an ancient Root.
I follow His ways because … I love Him! His God is my God … His people, my people.