I am early on an airplane tomorrow. Thus, two posts in one day because I will get back late tomorrow night.
Our study group met with Rabbi Jeff last week. Rabbi Jeff is a conservative Jew, not a messianic Jew. He is Hasidic by background, a descendant of rabbis for generations. He reads the New Testament in Greek, carries a copy of it in his shirt pocket. He is also a musician (rock and roll mostly) and one of the funniest guys I have ever met.
This was a get acquainted meeting. Part of his ministry is bridge building with other faiths. He has no problem presenting his faith or listening to you talk about yours. He gives permission to all of us to repeat his teachings, so I am not violating any confidences.
Among other things we talked about his belief in reincarnation, which he finds in Judaism. This is a logical conclusion from his belief that, as he says, God has made us flawed. We are flawed by God’s design. As we work our way to goodness, the world is prepared for Messiah. Messiah will come when you and I have progressed to the point where we have made the world good enough for God (or God’s representative, as Rabbi holds that Messiah is a position, rather than a specific person. He has the same contention about the Satan, which he feels is a position designated to various created beings from time to time.).
Now, I felt it necessary to contend with the rabbi at the point of Jewish perfectionism. Christians believe in grace (unmerited favor). We believe that God made us innocent and sin made us flawed. We do not believe that we are going to make the world so good that God will want to come but that God has come, time and again, but never more clearly than in the God-Man Jesus Christ.
So, three hours were taken up with spirited discussion on the goodness of man over against the sanctity and holiness of God (to which we both hold but in different ways.). Our group agreed that Jeff must come again. He is eager to do so.
One truly provacative point came when one of our fellows asked about Jesus’s contention that he came to fulfill the law. Jeff translates the word we translate “fulfill” as “practice.” That is, Jesus is saying he just came to practice the Old Covenant Law, not to fulfll it. My contention there is that context argues against such a translation because Jesus quotes the Old Covenant law and then extends it to thought and intention, rather than mere actions.
In short, this time Jeff did not make me a Jew and I did not make him a Christian. I did tell him I want to spend eternity with someone who is so funny and easy to like. When we argued over perfectability, I told him I do not believe we are perfectable (in this life) but that we are resurrectable. He delighted me by saying he believed that Jews are resurrectable as well. He believes in a heaven but not a hell, which he claims comes only from the captivity period in Jewish teaching and is based on the Zoroasterian theology of durative conflict between good and evil, with the outcome always in the balance. Brian McClaren has some thoughts on that subject as well.
Friends, it is good to be in love with the process of helping people come to Christ. We can enjoy leaving the outcome to God who neither fails nor makes mistakes.