We as believers must properly and correctly deal with those of other faiths and lifestyle persuasions and it is important to know how to do so.
Ecumenicalism and Respect, is there a Difference?
By Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr
Some people feel that I walk the line, straddle the fence and am thus deceptive. Why? Because on the one hand I am a Modern Orthodox Netzari Jew and I am very proud and very involved in my faith. If I didn’t feel it was the right faith I wouldn’t be practicing it. Would you if you were not convinced that your faith was the “right” one? So I am not ecumenical; yet I nonetheless have dear friends of other faiths. How can this be so if I am a dyed in the wool Netzari Jew?
First of all let us understand some terms here. Ecumenical is where one tries to unite and play a “yes man” to all religions. I’m not that way. I will not bow or cater my opinion and beliefs to other faiths. I think it is ridiculous for Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc; to hold a religious service together under one roof and banner. This is the gist of ecumenicalism.
On the flip side I love the rich and diverse cultures and religions of other peoples. I have no problem with rubbing elbows, fellowshipping and being friends with people of other religions. I can glean good things from other learning and studying other faiths. I believe in tolerance and mutual respect which is different than ecumenicalism. I can be friends with a Muslim or a Christians and yet not be “politically correct”. I can admire and learn from those of other faiths without necessarily agreeing with all of their stances.
I firmly believe we can be friends, find common ground and maturely discuss our different cultures and faiths and agree to disagree agreeably when called upon. I believe there can be mutual respect and peace between all three Abrahamic religions and the rest of the world religions without compromising your own.
How do I know this? Because I am living proof of this; I have dear friends who are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and even Gay and I by no means agree with all their doctrine or culture but we can still be friends and have a different religion and opinion and various things.
I don’t purposely go around to these friends and attempt to “evangelize” or shove my faith down their throats. Yet when asked or called upon, or if the opportunity presents itself for me to share my faith I do so and leave the outcome in the hands of the party I am sharing with. I would expect no less from them too. I will not back down in regards to my convictions, yet I won’t purposely tear another down for theirs. This is not called being religious, ecumenical, or politically correct. It’s called being a human being.
So call me a fence straddler if you wish, I see no conflict or contradiction on my part. I can clearly see the difference between ecumenicalism and mutual respect and tolerance.
I feel people offend or tear down other people or religions when they try to impose their beliefs and laws on someone outside their faith when in faith they need to do that to those who stray within their own religion. In other words I won’t call a Wiccan out on the carpet for witchcraft. Even though I feel it is wrong she is not a Netzari Jew, he/she is a Wiccan. Now if a Netzari Jew in one of our congregations was dabbling in Wicca that’s a whole other story, we have a prescribed way to handle that. But that prescribed way doesn’t apply to those outside my faith. If I saw a Hindu bow down to various idols, that’s a big no, no, in Judaism, and I by no means agree with what the Hindu is doing. But he is Hindu and not a Jew so how I relate to him is different than who I would to a Jew who I caught bowing down to an idol(s). But if asked by the Wiccan why I do not approve of witchcraft and the Hindu asks why I do not approve of idol worship I will respectfully and tactfully tell him why I believe the way I do. But I will not tramp about with a Torah scroll and a mega phone slamming every non-Jew I see for their non-observance of the Torah. I know I how I feel when I see street corner preachers and I wouldn’t want anyone of another faith doing that to me!
To close, allow me to use a somewhat secular analogy to drive my point home:
Just because we all belong to different ball clubs doesn’t mean we can sit and enjoy a drink together at the end of the day at the local sports bar.
How Do Christians Perceive You?
By Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr
Many reading this paper are Messianic/Nazarene Believers or Jews who have come out of Modern Day Christianity. We were shocked when we discovered the paganism rife within Christianity today. We felt lied to, deceived and cheated out of the blessings of following in the footsteps of our Messiah by keeping the Torah. We felt angered when we thought of how people like Constantine, the “Church Fathers” and the likes of Marcion helped influence and brainwash billions of followers of Yeshua hundreds and thousands of years after their deaths and how their false doctrines are perpetuated today through out Christianity by fear and ignorance.
Sadly, many of us have not let go of this bitterness, anger and repulsion of the lie that Christianity has become, and have unwittingly transferred it (whether we like to admit it or not) on to Christians themselves. Subconsciously believing they should know better when in fact the majority of them do not. By this attitude and demeanor that is sensed and picked up by Christians we repel the very ones we are trying to attract. The anger we feel toward the false doctrines of Christianity is actually felt as a “vibe” and seen on our faces and the sleeves of our souls we can’t help but bear to the world and is perceived by the Christian community that we are angry at and hate them, personally as individuals. In psychology this phenomenon is called “transference.” And if we are honest with ourselves some of us have developed a smug and prideful attitude because we are no longer deceived and it reeks like bad cologne. Christians smell it and translate it as, “I am smarter and more righteous than you because I keep Torah and you don’t and because of this you are not really saved and going to hell.” I know our lips never say this but our faces sometimes do. I know because I have had close Christian friends confide in me and have told me that this is the way other Christians see me. Because of this well intended zealousness to obey Torah and reveal it to the world I come across all wrong and at the beginning unknowingly shoved family and friends out of my life and am just now waking up to what really happened and are gaining some of those relationships back. Perhaps we are deceived in a more sinister way by hide, denying and justifying our feelings of spiritual superiority because we are no longer deceived by the paganism that is in modern day Christianity and that we know the liberating the truth about Torah.
Even though Yeshua is the Divine Messiah, I do not believe any of us would corner a Non-believing Jew and shove Yeshua down his or her throat. On the same token, even though the Torah has not been done away with and is still relevant for the believer in Messiah today we shouldn’t shove Torah down Christian’s throats.
Many of us think it is absurd to continue to ask, “WWJD,” because we, as Torah observant believers in Messiah now “DWYD (Do What Yeshua Did).” This helps us to our non-believing Jewish brothers, but how does this help our Christian counterparts? I feel WWYD is still in order when dealing with Christians. What would Yeshua do when dealing with Christians? We know what HE did when it came to dealing with His Jewish brethren, we read about it all the time in the Brit Chadasha. But how would He deal with Christians? After all, they didn’t exist during His lifetime.
Then who are the bulk of Christians to us? Some of them are our brothers because they don’t know any different and are sincerely serving G-d to the best of their ability. However, let me suggest most are our neighbors at best, just as Yeshua called Samaritans (Lk. 10:25-37). Even though Samaritans for the most part kept a form of Torah, they were not fully Jews, nor did they practice their religion as Jews. Yeshua knew this as He ministered to the woman at the well, who was a Samaritan (Jn. 4:1-42).
Christians too kept a form of the Torah yet do not practice as we do, so in away, Christians are our Samaritans. Yeshua as we’ve seen in the account of the woman at the well was civil, friendly, and hospitable. He wanted to share the truth of Moshiach. Avraham Avinu opened all four sides of his tent to welcome goyim from all over to share a hot meal, and the light and truth of Torah. We must do no less! We must remember where we came from. We were where they are currently once before in our lives. After all, what is the summation of Torah? To love YHWH with your entire being and love your neighbor as yourself. We even knew this from our Christian days. And how do we love? By being patient, gentle and understanding and not smug, arrogant, hateful, prideful and harsh. Who was Yeshua harsh too? The learned, the ones who actually knew better. Who was He gentle, kind and patient with? The ignorant, the ones who simply didn’t know better. You attract more flies with honey rather than vinegar as they say. And to use another cliché, actions speak louder than words.
For Christians who know me and may be reading this paper; I sincerely ask that you would please forgive me if I have ever hurt or offended you in any way, as I honestly and probably didn’t know it or mean to at the time. Let us try to be open minded and understand each other and if necessary agree to disagree agreeably and still have a profitable and peaceful relationship that honors our L-rd.