No Condemnation
Given By: "Glenn D Blank" On Saturday, February 9, 2013

 

The Good News begins and ends with God’s love: as we sang, “For God so loved the world…”

For some reason, some people think that the Good News begins and ends with God condemning us.

But God did not send His son to condemn us, but to save us, to restore us into His love. V’eemru?

Therefore, when we are able to share the Good News, we must try to convey above all is His love for all human beings—even sinners, actually especially sinners, and even people who may disagree with us.

V’eemru?

 

The inspiration for this message comes from a conversation I had this week at a Clergy Colloquy
of the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College.

About a year ago, I asked Nancy Hahn for a way to become involved in the Jewish community.

Occasionally I have gone to events sponsored by the Institute. I find some of the lectures interesting;
but I was looking for opportunities to dialog and get to know other people in the community.

The Clergy Colloquy is a group of Jewish and Christian clergy who meet once a month to discuss books written by theologians interested in promoting understanding between Jews and Christians.

The Christians are from mainline churches—Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc.

Some of you might be tempted to think, “Oh, liberal Christians…” if you were inclined to categorize people by their political or social views. One woman pastor who seems to look down on people with conservative social views. But I urge anyone here with conservative social views to hold off judgment!  

Isn’t that what Yeshua would do? He did not come to condemn the world, did He?
More about what Yeshua did and said in a moment….

This academic year, we’ve been reading Opening the Covenant: a Jewish Theology of Christianity.

The author, Prof. Michael S. Kogan, is a Jew who has participated in Jewish-Christian dialog for 30 years or so. These dialogs have developed in the aftermath of the Holocaust, when Catholic and mainline Christian theologians realized they there was something wrong with a Christian view of Jews that promoted or sanctioned anti-Semitism.

Kogan introduces his book with “a well-known account, in the early 1960s, [of] Pope John XXIII celebrating a Holy Week liturgy at St. Peter’s in Rome. Suddenly he gave a signal that abruptly interrupted the worship. The choir had just referred to ‘‘the perfidious Jews,’’ a line that had been part of the liturgy for many centuries. The pope announced that never again were those words to be spoken in Roman Catholic worship…. At the heart of the pope’s objection to the phrase was the adjective ‘perfidious,’ faithless. The point he was making was not only that Christians should no longer speak contemptuously of Jews but also that Christianity should evaluate Judaism in positive, rather than negative, terms. Jews were to be seen as people of faith, if not Christian faith. This action … ushered in a new phase of Jewish-Christian reconciliation.”

Now, there may be some of you who aren’t too sure about Catholics. I understand. When I met a young Catholic Christian, named Ed, who was encouraging me to learn more about Jesus and the Holy Spirit,
I expressed reservations about the way Catholics have treated Jews. But I have to give Ed credit, he understood my concern, and pointed me the Vatican II documents that adopted Pope John XXIII’s positive evaluation of Jews as “elder brothers” in covenant relationship with God.

The current Pope has visited Yad Vashem, Auschwitz, and a synagogue in Germany, his homeland.

Now don’t worry, I’m not becoming Catholic—how many times I had to reassure my Mother about that!

Nevertheless, I am glad that Catholics and many other Christians are rejecting Replacement theology.

Replacement Theology or Supercessionism is the notion that because Jews rejected Jesus, God has rejected Jews. Heaven forbid! V’eemru?

Asked and answered, in Romans 11:1–2, “I ask, then, has God rejected His people? Absolutely not!

For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.”

Yet Supercessionism is a doctrine that for centuries perverted the message of Yeshua to His own people.

Though Yeshua made it clear that He had come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, for centuries Christians have acted as if He had come to condemn His own people.

Supercessionism sets up a rivalry between Christians and Jews—during the Middle Ages, there were debates between Christians and Jews (usually the Jews were there under compulsion) so that Christians could demonstrate the superiority of their beliefs & so justify persecution or forced conversions of Jews. For too many centuries Jews were shut into ghettos—or even shut themselves in!

Dialog, on the other hand, is not about proving that my views are superior to yours, but seeking to understand one another. So Dr. Kogan devoted this book to review the dialog and to advance the idea that both Jews and Christians could appreciate each other without giving up their own faith.

 

This week the Clergy Colloquy was discussing Kogan’s review of recent statements of Jewish and Christian theologians advancing open dialog. “Dabru Emet” (“Speak the Truth”) is a statement of Jewish theologians and “A Sacred Obligation” is a statement of Christian theologians.

There is much agreement. For example, the first point of Dabru Emet is, “Jews and Christians worship the same God,” while the first point of “A Sacred Obligation” is “God’s covenant with the Jewish people endures forever.”  These starting points may or may not seem obvious to you, but they were much in doubt on both Jewish and Christian sides for millennia (and still are in many places).

Many Christians have thought that the God of the Old Testament is an old meanie, cruel and vindictive.

Or that Jews really worship the devil. On the other hand, many Jews have thought Christians worship three gods and they worship idols and not the One true God at all.

(How many have heard such things? You know, such views are not very helpful for honest dialog…)

 

Anyway, towards the end of our Clergy Colloquy this week, one of the participants turned to me and said, “Glenn, you’ve haven’t said a peep today!” I protested with a smile that I had said a peep or two.
(Truth be told, I had rather enjoyed mostly listening to everyone, and was content to chirp a confirming comment or two.)
But then this elderly gentleman asked, “What is the Messianic Jewish perspective? Tell us!” 

Baruch Hashem, I had prayed that morning before coming that HaShem would give me some wisdom!

So I began to talk about I agreed with most of the points of Dabru Emet and A Sacred Obligation,
but one thing they both seemed to agree about made me wonder.

Dabru Emit says “The . . . differences between Jews and Christians will not be settled until God redeems the entire world. . . . [Meanwhile,] Jews can respect Christians’ faithfulness to their revelation just as we expect Christians to respect our faithfulness to our revelation. Neither Jews nor Christians should be pressed into affirming the teachings of the other community.”

Well, that makes me wonder, what about Messianic Jews, who affirm teachings of both communities, and who do want fellow Jews to seriously consider the claims of Yeshua?

Furthermore, “A Sacred Obligation” states, “Christians should not target Jews for conversion.”

Well, I said, many Jews have accused Messianic Jews of that.

Yet from my perspective, as a Messianic Jew, I don’t see myself as pressuring Jews or targeting them.
As a Messianic Jew, I see myself as a Jew, living a Jewish life, celebrating Shabbat and the festivals, loyal to Israel and the Jewish people, with bar mitzvahs for our children….

At this point, the Rabbi of Knesset Israel, who was sitting next to me, interrupted.

 (BTW, Knesset Israel (also known as “KI”) is the Reform synagogue at 22nd and Tilghman Streets, next to Muhlenberg College, and has been hosting the Clergy Colloquy. [s] Rabbi Seth Phillips came to KI last year after serving many years in the Navy as a chaplain.)

So Rabbi Seth turns to me and says, “Please understand that my question is humorous… After bar mitzvah, do they keep coming to services?” Though I recognized the joke, I had to reply honestly,
“Well, actually they do.” And he had me: “Well, they must not be Jewish!”

(How many of you heard that joke. I told it several times…. Should I tell it again?)

So I held forth a bit more about how I am aware that many other Jews seem to think of Messianic Jews are “targeting Jews.” I said that our vision statement is, “We are a community, welcoming Jews and Gentiles….” We welcome other Jews (and Gentiles) to visit our community & believe as we do.

But I for one don’t believe we “pressure” or “target” anyone.

Dr. Peter Pettit, the Director of the Institute of Jewish-Christian Understanding, sought to clarify.
Dialog certainly agrees that it is fine that Messianic believers have their community & understanding,
so long as they aren’t pressuring others, or even implying superiority to others.

I sat back a moment and reflected, then said with conviction, that I for one try to avoid believing I am superior to other Jews or anyone else. (Please, everyone, take a moment to bookmark that point.)

The conversation went on for a while until it was time for us to close our meeting.

But it was clear that everyone liked what I had to say and came away with an even more positive view of Messianic Jews—both the liberal Christian pastor (including the one who knows that my social views are probably more conservative than hers) and the Jews (including Rabbi Seth).

I had convinced anyone to agree with everything I believed. But I hope I began to remove obstacles.

 

Now I want to come back to that bookmark as well as to what Yeshua said about judging others.

Take a moment to reflect. Think about a liberal, mainline Christian, someone who believes women can be pastors, or even that gays can be pastors, not to mention be legally married.

I know that many of you don’t agree with such views.

But what do you think about other people who do? Do you dislike such people?

Or do you think, “Such people … do not trust in God’s word … so they don’t really know the Lord.”

Yet Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua.”

There is no mention of one’s social or political views.

Or consider another example.  Think about a Jew, who says she doesn’t or cannot believe in Jesus.
Do you think, “Oh no, he’s going to hell!”

I’m not saying that you have actually had such a thought… I’m not even going to ask….

But suppose that liberal Christian or Jew knew what that you had such a thought about them that way,

wouldn’t she or he be justified in thinking, “You think you’re superior to me, don’t you!”

I trust you all are familiar with Yeshua’s parable about the Pharisee and the sinner in which the Pharisee had a superior attitude but the sinner had a prayer that was acceptable to God?

Can we agree that harboring a superior attitude to others isn’t conducive to honest, respectful dialog?
Nor is it helpful to the Good News, the Besorah of Messiah Yeshua. V’eemru?

 

Let’s review what Yeshua actually says about the Good News, in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

 

John 3:16 is, of course, one of the most famous of verses, held up in many football stadiums.

The first thing we need to understand is that the Good News is that God loves all of us.

 I like how David Harwood explains how people don’t always hear it the way God intended it.

Sometimes people hear it this way: “For God so valued the potential of a redeemed humanity that He gave his only son so whoever in him would be worked on the Holy Spirit, get brought to heaven, and be made into something that God could actually like.”

Or: “For God so hated the world but desired to show that He is the King so He gave his only son to save some people he didn’t even like, just to show that He’s a great king.”

Or: “For God is such a wonderful person that He gave his only son that whoever believes in him would never perish but be spared what they really deserved.”

Here’s the way it actually reads: “For God so loved the world… loved the world.”

Do you hear it? Do you hear His heart?

Yeshua died so that we would have eternal life.

You could wonder why God would bother to love us.  Have anyone ever wondered that? 

King David, who knew something about God’s love, wrote, “What is man that you are mindful of him?”

So many people, including many believers, actually think it is impossible to know why God loves us.

Well, here’s why: God created us to be lovely to him.

             Song of Songs 6:4 says: “You are beautiful, my darling, as Tirzah, lovely as Jerusalem.” 

            Yes it’s a love song between a man and a woman, but it’s also a love song between God & humanity.

            “Dance with me, O lover of my soul, to the Song of all Songs.”

God created humanity, in His own image, so that human beings would attract His love.

You push His buttons. 

God created people in such a way that it provokes a response of attraction,

a response of desire, a response of love.

Humanity was created as His bride. HaShem does not want to married to someone that he doesn’t love!

In prophet after prophet, Hosea and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Isaiah, e carries on about how he created Israel to be His bride, and though Israel became unfaithful, even like a prostitute, pursuing other gods, the God of Israel still loves His bride. True, he has to shake her up, discipline her, but His longing is to bring Israel back home, back to Himself. V’eemru?
As much as God loves Israel, the nation to whom He first married in the covenant at Sinai, God loves all humanity. For all are created in His image. He made humanity to be lovely to him.

So when Yeshua came, He told many a parable about weddings. He wants to consummate His marriage with all who will respond to His love. V’eemru?

 

Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us.”

How many are you are convinced that God loves you? Tov m’od!

Well then, do you know that God also loves people who have liberal social views?
Or even people who aren’t sure what they believe about God, let alone Yeshua?

In Matthew 5:31-33, Yeshua says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are doing good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do this.”

Yeshua teaches us that God loves even those who don’t love Him.
Frankly, if He didn’t, where would any of us be?

Then Yeshua also teaches His disciples that we also should love those who don’t God, or us.

Yeshua repeatedly demonstrated His love for sinners and outcasts, for prostitutes and lepers.

Moreover, He teaches His disciples, “Love your enemies.”

Romans 11:28 says about Jews who have not put their trust in Yeshua, “Concerning the Good News, they are hostile for your sake; but concerning chosenness, they are loved on account of the fathers.
In other words, though many Jews are hostile to the Good News about Yeshua, nevertheless God still loves them, because of His covenant with the fathers—that would be Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

God’s covenant with our ancestors is still valid. To underscore that point, Paul says, in verse 29:
“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” God doesn’t change His mind.
But you may think, but if my Jewish relatives don’t believe in Yeshua, what will happen to them.
The truth is, God alone is the Judge of eternity. And thanks be to God, He is very merciful!

Or someone who doesn’t believe in Yeshua might ask you, “Do you think I’m going to hell?”
The honest answer is, “I don’t know. God alone is the Judge.”
 

I do know that Yeshua said to His disciples, “I am the way the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.”
However, I don’t think Yeshua said this to give us a litmus taste for evaluating another person’s soul.

God alone is the Judge of Eternity.

It is one thing for me to be secure in my relationship with God, because I have put my trust in Yeshua, and I have learned to listen to His Spirit and walk in His way with some obedience.

It is quite another thing for me to think I can evaluate where my neighbor stands before God.

V’eemru?

said, in Matthew 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Pardon, and you will be pardoned.”

It’s one thing for me to have discernment, to know the difference between good and evil, between truth and falsehood, on the basis of God’s word and the clear prompting of the Ruach HaKodesh.
It’s quite another thing for me to judge another person.

V’eemru?


If any of us hope to present the Good News effectively to others, we must obey Yeshua’s teaching.
You must really trust that God loves you, unconditionally.
He made you in His image. You may need a little cleaning up, but God sees that lovely image in you.

Moreover, you must also really trust that God loves everyone around you.

Yeshua did not come into the world to condemn the world.
True, He went on to say that one who does believe in Him has already been judged.

Nevertheless, Yeshua did not come into the world to condemn.

That’s why Yeshua came, so that everyone might find mercy instead of judgment.

For God’s desire is that all find have His mercy.

It may happen for some sooner, and it may for others later.

Nevertheless, God’s mercy endures forever! V’eemru?

 

The prophets of Israel had some hard words for sinners who kept on rejecting Him.

Nevertheless, the prophets keep coming back to God’s heart of mercy.
Jonah ran from God because He didn’t want Him to be merciful to Nineveh.

So He wound up in the belly of a great fish, crying out to God for mercy.

And Jonah did send Jonah to Nineveh, and Nineveh did repent, and God did have mercy.

Jonah had a problem with that. Do any of you have a problem with that? I hope not!

 

Micah, like many ancient prophets of Israel, starts out with harsh words for sinful Israel.
But in the middle, Micah holds out the hope of the Messiah who would come from Bethlehem.

And in the end, He has some lovely poetry about God’s mercy, chesed, loving-kindness, loyalty.