The Self-Deprecating Beacon

A couple of weeks ago I asked for comments or longer pieces of writing on the question of how Christian Jews and their descendants of mixed Jewish-Gentile heritage can preserve a sense of Jewish identity. I’ve received a couple of responses, but more are welcome – please write to me at groomsfamilyblog at gmail dot com.

Why is it important to preserve Jewish identity? One way to see the continued existence of the Jewish people is as a symptom that there is (still) something wrong with the world. Were it not for anti-Semitism, it is likely that Jews as a people would have ceased to exist long ago. On a purely practical level, if anti-Semitic legislation in various countries had not for most of the history of the Exile confined Jews to ghettos, stripped them of civil rights, denied them opportunities for education and advancement in society at large, and prohibited intermarriage without conversion, the Jews would have assimilated. We know that in societies where such restrictions and anti-Jewish animus don’t exist, such as today’s United States or early 20th century Germany, the rate of Jewish intermarriage and cultural assimilation is sky-high.

At the same time, that the Jews are still here is due to the fact that most of them did not accept Christ. Despite the fact that Jewish Christian communities have never been immune from anti-Semitism, it seems most probable that the early Jewish churches had by this time completely assimilated. So the perseverance of the Jews is a symptom, on one hand, of anti-Semitism, a disease upon the body of the Church, and on the other hand, of their own unbelief in Christ as God, a perversion of their own faith. Is this why we are famous for self-deprecating humor?

Yet if Jews would not exist were not the world so bad, this is not an accident (as the word ‘symptom’ may imply). When God first chose the Jewish people for Himself, chances are the world was not much better than it is today. Modern anti-Semitic Christians and unbelieving Jews replace straight-up pagans, who also did not have much to show for themselves, morally speaking – what with child sacrifice and constantly enslaving one other. The Jews were to be “a light to the Gentiles” – a reminder of God’s glory and power, and the honor due him, in the midst of shameless nations.

For as long as the world resists God, the Jew – “willingly or unwillingly, consciously or unconsciously,” and regardless of his own individual righteousness – is a light, a lamppost, a reminder that all is not well and that there is still need for prayer and fasting. The Jewish people are a beacon – not of their own holiness, but of the holiness of God and of the disobedience of man. Their election is not in itself a reward (though certainly God’s love for His people is one), but a humbling duty.

This seems to me the core of Jewish identity, deeper than blood, Yiddishkeit, and perhaps even religion, whether Jewish or Christian. To carry out our witness with dignity, joyfully rather than against our will, to the glory of God – this is the task we must pass on to our children.

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About The Groom's Family

I was born in Soviet Russia and grew up in Israel. I was baptized Orthodox Christian in 2006. Today my husband and I live in Northern Virginia. I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment!
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7 Responses to The Self-Deprecating Beacon

  1. Romanós says:

    “The Jewish people are a beacon – not of their own holiness, but of the holiness of God and of the disobedience of man. Their election is not in itself a reward (though certainly God’s love for His people is one), but a humbling duty.”

    I love the entire post (and your blog as well), but this passage is not only most eloquent but absolutely true. Somehow it reminds me of the film ‘Fateless’, which is a teenage Jewish Hungarian boy’s recollection of his time in a Nazi concentration camp.

  2. @Romanos – that’s very kind of you. I’ll have to watch the movie, it sounds interesting!
    When I was a kid, the message I got from my parents and relatives about why it was important to remember that we are Jews was, essentially, “because *they* have hated Jews for so long.” Remembering the sufferings of one’s ancestors is worthwhile, but not in itself a reason – and certainly not an inspiring or positive one – to follow in their path. It always seemed to me that there is more than that there – that there has got to be something better I can tell my children…

  3. Rather than remembering the suffering of the Horim, remember the Promise of Great Mercy made to them in Eden (Gen. 3:15) which God has fulfilled in His Son, Jesus the Sent One. This was believed by your Horim and because they believed they were hated by the devil. They will be hated by men as well, as is evidenced by those who hate the Jews. Faithful Jews, Arabs and Gentiles share the experience of being hated for the cause of Christ.

  4. Yahnatan says:

    One way to see the continued existence of the Jewish people is as a symptom that there is (still) something wrong with the world.

    I appreciate what you’ve said here, and after thinking it over I think you’re articulating a number of important points. However, I’m troubled by the way this language echoes or mirrors the anti-Semitic trope–which says exactly the same thing, except that it adds to it that the Jews are also part of the problem.

    For as long as the world resists God…

    Is there an aspect of the Jewish witness that exists also for the sake of those who no longer resist God? This is question has important implications; if joining the Church is the visible sign of moving from the company of those who resist God to the company of those who pray “Thy will be done,” then does the Church have no need of the light of the Jew? I believe you would argue otherwise, but I’m still interested to hear what you would say.

    To carry out our witness with dignity, joyfully rather than against our will, to the glory of God – this is the task we must pass on to our children.

    Amen.

    • @Yahnatan – I was thinking about that. I don’t really have an answer, other than that we don’t really need to worry about what happens when the world ceases to resist God. Not to be cynical, but – that’s not happening anytime soon, and when it does, we will hopefully all be in heaven where God Himself will take the trouble to clarify the issue. 🙂

      That goes also for your question about the Church – I think the Church certainly does need the light of the Jew, particularly that Jew who is in the Church. While the Church is Christ’s spotless Bride and the fulfillment of the covenant, the members and leaders of the Church, being human, are not free from the virus of resistance to God – indeed the historical hostility of many of them toward the Jew is part of what keeps the Christian community away from God. As one of Judith Kornblatt’s interviewees said (see book review a couple of months back), the Jew (and the treatment of the Jew) is the litmus test of the Church.

  5. The answer is patterned for us by the Horim in their marriage and ascendency pattern which is consistent from Genesis to the New Testament. Each ruler-shepherd-priest had two wives: one was a half-sister (as was Sara to Abraham) and the other was a cousin or niece (as was Keturah to Abraham). The first wife was the wife of the ruler-to-be’s youth. The second wife was wed just before ascension to the throne of the father. I wonder if this isn’t what Jesus meant when He spoke of two flocks? The righteous in the House of Israel are the first wife and the righteous in the Church are the more distant kin. This would explain the imagery of the bridal feast at Christ’s return. at which time he will receive an eternal kingdom from the Father.

  6. Pingback: The Noble Origins of Jewish Guilt? | The Groom's Family

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