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For several years. now, the Messianic community has been embroiled in an argument of epic proportions. In case you are either new to the Messianic Movement or have been hiding under a rock for the past 15 years, let me summarize the situation:
- What we today call “Messianic Judaism” began as “Hebrew Christianity”, and was defined as “bringing Jews to believe in Jesus”.
- As the numbers of Jewish believers grew, so did the sense that we needed to manifest an authentically Jewish culture. (I entered the movement in 1981, just as this topic was heating up.)
- The conclusion of this discussion was to regard the community of believing Jews and Gentiles as one Body, practicing “a Judaism”–“Messianic Judaism”, not “Hebrew Christianity”. This was a huge point, philosophically, and we are still working through making people understand the significance of this idea.
- The initial fall-out of making this transition in thought was to raise the question, “If we are a Jewish community, then what is the place of Gentiles in our midst?” To get a sense of just how out-of-place some Gentiles can be in a Jewish community, I encourage you to watch “A Stranger Among Us”, with Melanie Griffith—bad acting in that film only enhances the presentation of how clumsy the relationship can be!
- Just at the time the Messianic community was working on how Jews and Gentiles should relate to one another in a common community, a new thing arose—the Hebrew Roots (HR) community. HR is primarily composed of Gentiles who have become enthralled with the Jewish nature of the Bible. Their motives are good. They want to learn the Torah, the Hebrew language, and become observers of the commandments of God. Those things are praiseworthy. The problem is, they wish to do all this in a vacuum, apart from the Jewish people who wrote and preserved those same Scriptures, and apart from the Jewish culture that informs the interpretations of the text. They are generally rabidly anti-rabbinic, and usually adhere to a theology of Identity called “Two House Teaching” (2H), which informs the HR Gentile that s/he is reclaiming his stolen Hebrew identity, to which s/he is entitled. With no evidence to support this claim, the effort is viewed as deceptive and antagonistic by Jewish believers.
- The rise of HR right when the Messianic Jewish community was working out its own questions regarding self-identity set the MJ discussion off on a tangent that has been devastating to the unity of Jew and Gentile, as expressed in the Scriptures.
- The result is that the present state of the discussion has crystallized into an argument over blood lineage, rather than individual self-identification in relation to the Jewish community. We are presented with a choice—there are Messianic Jews (MJ) and Hebrew Roots (HR) Gentiles. Not to mention some who still hold to the “Us versus Them” mentality of dividing between Judaism and Christianity. This original Hebrew Christian (HC) mentality figures prominently in the present anti-Gentile posture, as well.
This brings me to why I am addressing this subject today. After more than 30 years as part of the Messianic community, spending my entire adult life living in Jewish community, I find my wife and I suddenly marginalized by the teaching coming from a small, but vocal, minority of “leaders” in the Messianic Jewish community. This teaching takes the form of segregation based on bloodline. Jews are welcome into this brand of Messianic Judaism, and Gentiles are not. Gentile participation in the local synagogue service is viewed as usurpation of “Jewish cultural identity markers”, and Gentiles are encouraged to return to a church world that is rife with antinomianism and anti-Semitism. The old “Us versus Them” mentality has resurfaced—after years of singing, “Jew and Gentile, one in Messiah, one in Yeshua’s love!”
These leaders in the Messianic community have apparently forgotten Yeshua’s words…
“Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham to our father': for I say unto you, God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Luke 3:8).
There are days when all I want is to be as welcome as a rock.
So, Get to the Point, Already!
OK… What has all of this got to do with TOGI? What the heck is a TOGI, anyway???
I’m glad you asked! TOGI is an acronym (obviously), standing for three core principles that I believe are necessary in order to establish a balanced, Biblical community that avoids the various errors and extremes we see in the various sub-sects calling themselves, “Messianic”. We have identified three sub-groups that have manifested at various points in the debates. Three groups, three points.
This is more foundational to the restoration of all things than most of us are willing to admit. The Torah explicitly states in Devarim 30 that repentance while in dispersion will lead to a return to Hashem and to the Land. Anyone who believes Torah Observance is “optional” or “by invitation only” is blatantly fighting against the Restoration of Israel. The view that Torah is optional is common among Hebrew Christians, who give the traditional Christian churches more credibility than they deserve for their role in Jewish missions. Jews adopting traditional Christian theology regarding the Torah are operating at odds to the Biblical definition of Jewish restoration.
The prophets foretell that the Restoration of Israel will include bringing myriads of Gentiles with them to Zion. The nations of the planet will flow to Jerusalem, alongside their Jewish counterparts, in order to learn the Torah and worship the God of Israel. To segregate Gentiles from the “Jews-only club” violates every principle of the prophets and of Messiah.
Isaiah said it first, and it was echoed by Yeshua—”My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations”. What can this mean other than that Gentiles are called to engage the God of Israel in the same manner as the Jews, and alongside their Jewish counterparts?
When one considers the arguments for “bi-lateral ecclesiology” (segregation), one cannot but hear the voice of fear. One of the greatest fears in the mind of a Jewish person is to be overrun and annihilated by the sheer numbers of the Goyim, who outnumber them by tens of thousands to one. This is a reasonable concern, given the history of Jewish/Gentile interaction over the centuries and millennia.
For this reason, it is incumbent upon any Gentile wishing to participate in the Messianic Movement to approach the issue from a position of humility and respect. We MUST account for the fear in our interactions, and do everything in our power to allay the Jewish concerns. There is no Messianic Movement without Israel. And Israel must be supported at all costs—REAL Israel, not a group of Gentiles playing “Hebrew” dress-up games, pretending to an Israeli identity for which there is no evidence, whatsoever.
I propose that these three pillars form the legs of a stool that can sustain the Messianic Movement, providing guidance and support, so we do not fall under the influence of half-baked, self-appointed “teachers”. These three principles will help us communicate the fundamental pillars of our faith—belief in the Jewish Messiah and his mission to re-gather Israel—in a manner that is both respectful and organically Jewish, all at the same time.
What If We Aren’t TOGI?
The alternative is that Messianic Judaism will implode. It will lose numbers because there are no Gentiles. It will fail to bring Jews to Torah because it follows Christian theology. It will fail because it values Jewish identity more than it values the Jewish Messiah, and the Torah he taught.
The experiment of a Jews-only MJ is already well on the way to marginalizing itself! Stuart Dauermann was recently seen commenting on Facebook, opining that MJ (at least, the brand of MJ currently represented by the UMJC, which is heavily influenced by his own theology) has failed. What was his criteria for making these comments? The fact that there were no Jewish anti-missionaries protesting at the 2014 UMJC conference in Chicago!
An MJ that makes no requirement of accepting Yeshua as Messiah is no longer a threat to the traditional Jewish community! It has made itself irrelevant, and does not fulfill the description given by the prophets—raising a banner for the Gentiles, calling them to Jerusalem where all will serve the God of Israel together… “ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE mikveh, ONE God and Father of ALL“.
It is time to stop beating the drum for racism and segregation, and get back to the Torah vision of Israel at the head of a planetary TOGI empire. Any other vision for Israel is TOO SMALL!
Let’s be “Smarter than the average bear, Boo Boo”!