For too long the Church has been the favorite whipping boy” of cynics and critics looking for an easy way to sound intelligent. It’s always possible to build up one’s own ego by tearing down someone or something else—and especially tempting to do so when that someone or something doesn’t appear to have a ready defender.
Perhaps you have seen or heard of the television show “Politically Incorrect.” The show’s format is a group discussion in which various celebrities serve up humorous social commentary. The repartee rarely rises above the kind of cynical sarcasm that wins laughs at other people’s expense—which is typical of the spirit of this age. Unfortunately, it seems that spirit extends to the body of Christ.
Now we might expect celebrities to poke fun at the Church, but that’s not the real problem. Too often believers are quick to pick apart the Church in general, or even their own local congregations. “My church is too big.” “My church is too small.” “The Church is too worldly.” “The Church isn’t relevant.” “Church music is out of date.” “Church music is too contemporary.” And on and on it goes.
A well-known Christian author even remarked, “The Christian community often exhibits to the world an IQ about thirty points lower than that of a rather demented jellyfish.”
There is an old Yiddish saying: “Azde calle net tanzen zugse der klezmer dennet shpielen.” (When the bride can’t dance, she says the orchestra can’t play.) Remarks like the one above reflect more on the individual making them than they do on the body of Christ.
The way some of us relish cynical criticism points up our own individual problems more than those of the Church. That is not to say there’s no room for improvement in our churches. But the old statement holds true: “If you find the perfect church, don’t join it, because once you do it won’t be perfect anymore.”
We could all stand to be more eager to help solve the problems in our churches than to criticize them. I am speaking of Bible-believing churches. Jewish believers in Jesus are painfully aware that much of what has passed for “the Church” over the centuries has been anything but Christian. For example, during Nazi rule in Germany in the 1930s and ’40s, the “state church” was often complicit with the government in its racist agenda. Yet there were others, members of “the Confessing Church,” who stood against the Nazi regime at great personal cost. Some—like Dietrich Bonhoeffer whose stand against Hitler cost him his life—are well known. Others who sacrificed just as much are known to only a few.
As a Jew, I thank God for the Confessing Church in Germany. I thank God for those who loved the Lord enough to stand with my Jewish people and against the evil of Nazism. From the Church fathers to the present, there have always been those who have claimed to be a part of the Church and those who truly are. Unfortunately, in disassociating with those who are impostors, we can fail to discern what is genuine and cause a ripping or tearing in the true body of Christ.
Some of our messianic brothers and sisters prefer not to identify with the Church, confessing or otherwise. They consider themselves a Jesus-believing branch of Judaism. I don’t see anything wrong in Jewish believers identifying as a particular kind of Jew. But I don’t believe any believer in Jesus has the right, or even the ability, to opt out of the Church. Scripture is clear that belonging to Jesus means belonging to another community, another body, and this body is the Church.
The Bible says, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). If we deny that we are part of the Church, we are ripping our own body asunder. We are the Church, all of us, with our shortcomings, our nobility and ignobility. We are the Church, all of us, with our diversity, our differing cultures and yes, our differing prejudices. Regardless of our background or experience, any time believers take shots at the Church, we are shooting ourselves.
Our staff are all active members of local congregations, messianic and otherwise. Many have ordination from recognized evangelical denominations. The Church is not a foreign community; it is our community. Yet the Church is more than you and I and all believers. The Church is the bride of Christ, and what bridegroom would be pleased with those who speak ill of his chosen? He is aware of our shortcomings; He died for them. Perhaps the most loving thing I can do for Jesus is to reserve my harshest scrutiny for my own personal shortcomings, and look at His bride with affection and appreciation. Maybe you are tempted, as I am, to criticize the Church. Let’s instead be thankful and build up the body. So on behalf of our staff, thank you to the community of Christ.
- Thank you for showing us Jesus.
- Thank you for encouraging us to follow our calling to evangelize our Jewish people.
- Thank you for supporting us when we felt ourselves to be unworthy.
- Thank you for your love and affection, which uphold us.
- Thank you for helping to build the Jews for Jesus ministry.
- Thank you for praying and giving and witnessing so that our Jewish people might come to know the Savior.
More than ever before, we Jews for Jesus need the Church. We have not sought the endorsement of any one denomination, but we are thankful that a wide range of evangelical churches believe in what we are doing and have welcomed us into their pulpits. We continue looking for more ways to partner with local churches in doing the work of evangelism, particularly in light of Operation Behold Your God.
The Church doesn’t need me or any other mere human to defend her. Her Groom is the greatest defender of all. Yeshua said the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18). We know that He has promised not only to defend the Church but also to bring it, all of us together, into His glorious presence, “that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). Who can argue with that?