As Messianics on a quest for self-definition and the recharacterization of our faith, perhaps the most fundamental, core issue we face is that we too quickly and easily revert to religion, mistaking it for a tangible relationship with God. As such, when we demonstrate the fortitude to reject a given religion (i.e. Christianity, Judaism, etc.) in pursuit of a “true faith,” we find ourselves believing that whatever road we feel led to travel next (i.e. “Messianic Judaism,” Hebraic roots, et al) must therefore be the way to get to Him. This might be true, except for the fact that many of us have issues with shedding our religious tendencies, and more often than not, end up simply exchanging one brand of religion for another.
The twist on this problem within and around the Messianic Jewish movement is that a particular religion—Judaism—often becomes the surrogate “missing link” to God, such that anything Jewish (tradition, theology, cultural practice, ethnicity, etc.) now has the potential to be considered sacred. Some take this to the extreme, advocating for currently accepted Judaisms (Orthodox, Conservative, etc.) as the necessary contexts for Scripture-based, Messianic life, learning and expression. But most who go down this road simply revere Judaism as a superior, parental, and authoritative culture, consequently exploiting it in an effort to obtain either a purer walk in Yeshua, or valid credentials as authentic practitioners of the Messianic faith. The result is that we effectively bypass and suppress what ought to be the only authoritative source for teaching us how to live by the Word of God: Scripture!
Are we really incapable of grasping the simple teachings of Scripture without turning to an established religious system—like Judaism—for answers? Is it naïve (or even conceited) of us to take Moshe at his word when he says that we don’t need someone else to go get the Word and bring it to us, so that we can do it? (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) The Prophet is not calling for some kind of individualistic, Scripture-interpreting free-for-all; he is administering an exhortation of responsibility: Adonai’s instructions for His people are beyond accessible—His Word is near to us, and we can do it! If the Scriptures fail to speak clearly to us in matters concerning practical, everyday life, then it is permissible to consult outside sources—including some from Judaism. But my question is, if we are really allowing the Scriptures to have an unimpeded voice of influence and authority in our lives, do they really have the potential to fail us?
We cannot have a tangible relationship with an untouchable, invisible God unless we are willing to stake our lives on the imperceptible. The minute we attempt to manage, systematize and make our faith concrete, we lose the ability to hope for and trust in things we cannot see. Faith does not need to be protected by the fences of religion; on the contrary, it needs to be set free to believe the impossible and commit to the unthinkable. The Scriptures are not a mystery that needs to be unlocked by those more pious, intelligent, or chosen—they are literally an open book, available to all who receive it in humility… as long as we are willing to do what it says without insisting that it say what we want.
This “Word from Kevin” was adapted from an article previously published in Messianic Jewish Issues.