Whenever Christian Jews get together and start talking about how great it is to be Christian Jews – or when they get together and start talking about how painful it is to be Christian Jews – someone will inevitably pipe up and say: But I thought in the Church there was neither Jew nor Greek! Why are we nursing these old, bad tribal affiliations?
When Christians study the Book of Acts, it seems that the story always goes like this: The early Jewish Christians, who didn’t understand that there is no salvation in the law, wanted to impose Jewish law on Gentiles trying to enter the Church. Thank goodness St. Paul showed up in time, saved us all from adult circumcision, and reminded the Jews that all are equal in the Church.
If there is neither Jew nor Greek in the Church, why does the Church in most of the world feel so distinctly Greek? Why has the Roman Catholic Church until recently served Mass exclusively in Latin, a language the early Church never spoke? Why were Spain’s marranos prohibited from intermarrying with “real” Catholics? Why do good Christian people, especially in the Old Country, seem genuinely confused when they meet a Jew in their parish? Why do Ukrainian Christians put on Christmas pageants depicting the Jew as a friend of the devil?
When St. Paul said that there is neither Jew nor Greek in the Church, he meant that Jews should not bar Greeks from entering. He did not mean that the memory of the Jewish church should be erased, and that it should take a special kind of saint to remind the Nazis that the Mother of God was Jewish.
Jew and Greek were meant perhaps to become integrated into the same Church, which would be neither a Jewish nor a Gentile institution but rather a new creation. But the reality – of this sinful world, not of the Kingdom – is that the Church, at too many times and in too many places, is a distinctively Gentile, nationalistic, and often anti-Semitic place.
Thus, ironically – in this sinful world, not in the Kingdom – if we are to remember that there is neither Jew nor Greek in the Church, we need Jews, such as these, to remind Greeks of this fact.