How do we teach a generation
of children to go against the flow? How do we as believers, raise them to
be at peace with their apparently conflicting identities: both "in the
world" and also "not of it?" In our case they must learn to be both
Jewish and also followers of Yeshua. This means going against the
flow of their peers all the way from nursery school through army service
and into college and the work force. We see many who complete their army
service and leave the faith, stolen in their prime.
As I look at Paul's ministry to the Gentiles, I can't help but
notice that the closer he gets to Jerusalem, the more he is confronted
with a similar Jewish vs. Yeshua conflict. And when I return to
Israel from teaching in different nations, I also feel like Paul getting
"closer to Jerusalem" (Acts 20 & 21). I am once again face to face
with the religious Jewish community and its approach to Torah. These were
part of my upbringing and identity as a Jew, and by God's grace I am
able to stand in the midst of both camps - maintaining my identity both
as a Jew and as a follower of Yeshua.
In Paul's time there were two camps: the Jews and the Gentiles.
Through Paul, God chose that the Gentiles should hear the word of the
Gospel and believe (Acts 15:7). To accomplish this Paul had to cross
geographical borders as well as borders of tradition and custom. He
entered the homes of Gentiles and helped awaken them to faith. Even as he
traveled, preached and visited congregations, he remained a Jew in the
way he worshiped God. Only by God's grace was Paul able to carry
out this stereotype-breaking lifestyle.
Gentile believers came from a background of idol worship. Their "worship
culture" was not the same as that of the Jews. Jewish believers looked at
the Gentile believers from a Jewish perspective and were put off by what
they saw as pagan Greek or Hellenistic influences in their faith. There
was a big argument among the apostles concerning which of the
commandments the Gentiles should be required to follow (Acts 15:19-21).
Paul knew how to stand in the midst of both camps while maintaining the
integrity of his identity. Acts 21:20 describes that in addition to him,
there were tens of thousands of Jews who believed in Yeshua and
remained "zealous for the law". I look at all of the above and
consider it in the light of modern Israeli life. I find myself
considering Paul's thoughts in Galatians 2:1-5. Like him, I want to
be sure not to "run my race in vain." What do I mean by that? I want to
see the next generation able to live boldly as Israeli Jews and as
followers of Yeshua.
We are raising our children to believe in Yeshua yet they are living in a
Jewish society which identifies Him with a religion that has persecuted
and killed them throughout history. Our children, youth and young adults
do not want to lose their Jewish identity and connectivity, but our faith
can put a distance between us and the rest of our society. Many in the
Jewish community still perceive accepting Yeshua as worshiping "another
God" and betraying our people. There is little to no understanding of
Yeshua and Messianic Judaism, particularly among school age children,
which makes it particularly difficult for our kids to express their faith
among their peers.
This generation is encountering the same challenges that Paul, the
apostles and the first century believers in Yeshua faced. May God give us
the wisdom to do all we can so they will not feel alone, so that they
will feel loved and accepted while maintaining their Jewish identity and
growing in understanding and acceptance of Yeshua.
And may we, around the world, all join together standing in faith
intercession for the water of God's Spirit to flow in accordance
with generational promises applicable to all of us:
"... Fear not, O Jacob My servant
... whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water on him who is thirsty,
And floods on the dry ground;
I will pour My Spirit on your descendants,
And My blessing on your offspring."