Weekly Sabbath Survey
Tale of Two Tribes–Part 1 — 1-23-2016
This “story” springs from questions I’m asked from time to time. My continual references to our connection to Judaism and the Jewish people is a curiosity to some. My open criticism of Gentile churches is a burr under the saddle to others. The questions and challenges keep me on the ball, making me be sure I’m hearing from God at least some of the time! They keep me going, keep me praying and studying.
Once upon a time, there was a tribe called the Hebrews, later, called Israel, and finally, the Jews. (As in Jew-duh. Judah was the family name of Jesus, who was (is) a Jew.) When He burst on the scene He was the most captivating Rabbi speaker and miracle worker of all time. The Jewish people loved Him and flocked to see and hear Him. The Jewish leaders were threatened by Him and constantly looked for ways to catch Him in some compromise of Jewish law. They feared losing their cozy position with the Roman invaders in Israel at that time. Some of the sayings of Jesus renounced them. He called them out on their hypocrisy and greed. He called them snakes. (Bear in mind Jesus never read How to Win Friends and Influence People.) The leaders angrily rejected Him as the Messiah of Israel. They were praying for a military king to rise up and vanquish the Romans. (Have you ever prayed for something and got something else? Instead of the new Lexus and the cost that goes with it, the Lord provided an aging Honda van, mechanically sound and given to you free? Oh boy, that’s another word for another day.)
Back to ‘once upon a time’, there was also a tribe called the Gentiles. Truthfully, Gentiles were and still are, everybody who is not a Jew! After the Day of Pentecost, the followers of Jesus (all Jews) came forth from that once in a lifetime experience as the most powerful faith-based group of people the world has ever known. They took their show on the road. With Paul spearheading the missions, the first apostles and others went into every nation in the Middle East and beyond. Gentiles in every city of the world embraced Jesus as their Savior and Lord. There were others like the Ethiopian man traveling on a lonely highway. He was baptized by Philip and went on the his journey rejoicing in the Lord.
For the first two or three hundred years the congregation of Jesus was a nice mixture of Jews and Gentiles. There were differences and disagreements, but the dedication to the Lord was stronger, and the work of the ministry went forward. The years rolled by, and the Believers in the Way were targeted, persecuted and killed by the Romans. Crosses hung with the dead and dying lined the highways going into Rome. Then the apostles all died and the Gentiles took charge of the congregation of Jesus. In spite of the years of persecution, people were still eager to join these outcasts. The message of salvation was spreading into every nook and cranny of the Roman world. They were numerous enough to be a threat if they ever rose up to fight the Romans. An Emperor named Constantine saw the value of religion for controlling a very large scattered population. So, he became a Christian, and declared the Jesus followers the OFFICIAL religion of Rome.
Constantine had no allegiance to any of the various religions/gods in the Empire, he ‘worshipped’ war and conquest. So he officially and systematically stamped out the pagan gods. His Christianity became the only ‘way.’ Now, the Christians were no longer persecuted, but those pesky Jews absolutely REFUSED to become Christians. This made Constantine very angry. Roman soldiers marched around the Empire forcing men at the point of their sword, to say they follow Jesus. Christians were detained and interrogated, asked if they were secretly Jewish. The Church leaders saw the need to put distance between the Gentile church and the Jews. They removed everything that had to do with Judaism from their worship, their teachings and their buildings. Then they replaced the Jewish things with something more familiar to Romans: pagan holidays and idol statues now called ‘saints.’ They also forced Jewish Believers from their fellowship for fear of being seen as enemies of Rome.
Part Two will be sent tomorrow.
Charlene Reams Manning, Believer in the Lord Jesus Messiah
Copyright July 2015
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