I was asked a question about sin. Her question was, “I guess I sin all the time and how will I not just go to hell?” She was somewhat joking with me and she is a seeking skeptic teenager. However, coming up with a response made me think about sin and the fatalist approach I heard from her. I immediately responded that I sin all the time too, so she and I are not all that different. Then I followed that up. This is why Jesus is so important to our stories, because everyone has a sin problem and that is not going away. But Jesus was God’s solution to the sin problem, and when we decide to have a relationship with Jesus and love Jesus and try to live like he did; then we accept God’s solution for our sin.
I told the young lady that Jesus is important because He was a part of God and became the ultimate solution to the sin problem. However, I walked away and started thinking about Jesus’ humanity as well. So often I am confronted with the reality of Jesus being one with God, but I also have to be cognizant that Jesus embraced his human story.
What I mean by that is Jesus lived the life of a Jewish man, with Torah, Prophets, and Wisdom as his life-giving source. He was from the line of Judah, a son of Abraham. Tied to the Mosaic law and the prophets notion of Messiah and Kingship. Jesus was taught the Jewish way and he accepted it. Sure there were battles to be had and teachings to be given, but these were to uncover the intention and heart behind the laws and not so much to destroy them. We hear from Jesus and it is echoed in Paul’s writings that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law and not the destroyer of it. Sin could be seen as the destroyer of the covenants and laws.
So Jesus was deeply rooted in the Jewish story. He didn’t want to be a Roman, Greek, or to work out of some other religious system. He did not try to synchronize his Jewishness with something he thought would be better. Nope, he worked and taught and died trying to draw the Jewish life, covenants, and laws closer to the God at the center of their way of life…the god Jesus and all God’s people would call Father. Jesus accomplished the reconciliation of God’s people and God through living, teaching, sacrificing, and ultimately resurrecting. Which leads us to wonder about our story and our connection with Jesus.
I know Christians who are very connected to the Jewish way of life. I ran into a devout Seventh Day Adventist who challenged a minister friend of mine about worshipping on Sundays and not taking Saturdays seriously enough. I know Christians who keep Sabbath days, obey food laws, and Jewish holidays. On the other hand, I know Christians who make little to nothing to the Jewish way of life and express that we have been given freedom in Christ. They see the movement back to Jewish roots as a new form of legalism, a way to establish a false superiority and feel religious. I think both of these groups, and those Christians who stand in between have points to be considered, but let me offer some critique.
For Christians who want to live a more religiously Jewish lifestyle, I have to ask if it draws you closer to Jesus? I want to make sure it doesn’t offer you a since of pride in living the “right” life or a more justified life than others. We must remember that our adherence to law and sabbath and holidays don’t make us righteous or holy, Jesus alone does that because he fulfilled the system that we will enviably mess up. When a preference becomes sin…we must remember the words of Paul about celebrating holidays and eating food. The Kingdom of God is bigger than these things, and the key to unlocking it is fellowship with friends and family and connection to God. Any lifestyle that puts up walls between people and makes God something we can control fails to reflect the life of Christ, in whom our everything exists.
For Christians who live in freedom, I have to ask you if the freedom of Christ has moved into a new category of unengaged permission. Perhaps we somehow think that God no longer cares what we do or who we are. Does God still care that we rest, instead of working consistently and controlling everything? Does God want us to be healthy, strong-minded, well-loved people? Does sin still exist, or does it only exist outside of Christ and as long as you have a salvation experience then you can live as you please and ask forgiveness? Should we synchronize Jesus with other things so that he makes more sense; after all, many Christians are not Jewish so maybe Jesus should lose his Jewish story in favor of a more American story? Any lifestyle that reflects a laze-faire attitude toward how we live in Christ can’t possibly be taking Jesus seriously as both Lord and Savior of the world. Jesus has both the relational and authoritarian influence to demand our allegiance and challenge our behaviors.
I think we often miss the point in this debate about how much Old Testament we should incorporate into our lives. Jesus embraced the story and in so doing, provided us with a New Testament. Jesus gave us teachings, fulfilled ancient covenants, and promised us new realities from God. It was all deeply rooted in the Old Testament, but found new meanings in Jesus. That is where the Christian community now lives…cultures apart from the writings of both testaments, yet deeply rooted in the Old and deeply devoted to the New. The challenge remains for us to stop arguing about it, and start helping each other live it. Ultimately, I ask myself if I am deeply rooted in Christ because Jesus’ story of service, love, sacrifice, resurrection, and glory is the one in which I want to share. You?
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.