Earlier I wrote about the obligation on Gentile Christians to think of Jews with the love and respect due to in-laws (family of the Bridegroom). What about the obligations of Jewish Christians – married into the Church – in this family relationship? Today I’ll look at their role with respect to Gentiles, and after the weekend try to tackle what it might be with respect to Jews.
Here are a couple of contexts in which Jewish Christians must choose where they stand in Gentile society. One is choosing a denomination – should one go with one of the historic churches or join a Messianic congregation, which seems so much more Jew-friendly? This is a really important topic, and I will give it justice in a later post.
Another context is how Jewish Christians think about intermarriage (apparently this engaged lady can’t help talking about marriage, yet again!). Here’s a curious phenomenon: Jews who become Christian, regardless of the denomination, assimilate. Jews who don’t have a much greater motivation, and opportunity, to continue to marry Jewish. (Actually, many of them assimilate too – apparently over 40% of secular Jews in America intermarry – but then again, within a few generations we stop calling them Jews.)
A grievance of Rabbi Israel Lau, chief rabbi of Israel, against Jewish convert Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger when the latter came to visit Jerusalem, is that converting to Christianity causes Jews to disappear. It’s true that a branch of the Jewish people as we know it comes to an end with a mixed marriage, and Jewish Christians (including this one) are often concerned about it along with practicing Jews.
But it’s also true that the Jewish people as we know it is by definition only that part of the Jewish people that has not accepted Christ. No one knows eactly how many Jews became Christian since the times of Christ and until today; I suspect that it actually constitutes a respectable percentage of the Jewish people. It’s just that their descendants don’t count when the Jewish people is tallied up. (Which, incidentally, is how the Jewish state today would like to keep it. You can become a citizen of Israel under the Law of Return if you have a single Jewish grandparent, even on the halakhically wrong paternal side, but not if you are a full-blooded Jew who has converted to Christianity – never mind being the descendant of such a convert.)
There is a good reason for a Jewish Christian to marry Jewish: his children will be “Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God” (Romans 9:4-5). They will have enough of a sense of identity to invest in building the Jewish church.
There is also a good reason for a Jewish Christian to intermarry. It’s probably fair to say that most secular Jews intermarry because they rank love for a particular person above their Jewish identity, or because they generally don’t think that Jewish identity is very important. For the Jewish Christian – or at least for me – the deciding factor here is not the supreme importance of romance (which is not to belittle romance), but the adoption of the Gentiles into the Church. Intermarriage is not relinquishing one’s identity as a member of Israel, but placing one’s identity as a member of New Israel above it.
I’d be interested in input from Jewish Christian readers of the blog on this topic.