Monday, November 26, 2012

What We Believe

A statement before I begin: What Rebecca and I believe has absolutely no bearing on what you should believe or the holidays you should celebrate or how you should raise your children. We do not condemn anyone for disagreeing with us or choosing to believe differently than we do. We know what God has called us to and are trying our best to walk that path and do not expect anyone to walk it with us. That being said, in the interest of being as brief as possible, I am not going to lay out any arguments or cite any evidence. The information is pretty easy to find if you are interested in looking for it. We are always open to productive discussions, so if you have any questions, please ask.

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.    For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." - Matthew 5:17-18

A couple of years ago, Rebecca and I started examining our beliefs with an eye on the history behind them. It started with simple things, like what did the early Church really look like? From there, it snowballed into why do we, as Christians, worship on Sunday, when, biblically, Saturday is the Sabbath. Or, why do we celebrate Jesus's birth in December, when many historians agree he was likely born in September/October? And what exactly does Jesus mean by what he said above? If the vision Peter had in Acts regarding the clean and unclean animals was a metaphor for preaching to Gentiles as well as Jews, then why is it used as a basis for throwing out the dietary laws?

What we started to find was that the history behind our beliefs isn't so noble or even based on biblical truth. What we found was that many of the decisions made in the first 3 to 4 centuries of the Church were made to make the faith more appealing to pagans or as a way to separate a fledgling faith from Judaism, which was being severely persecuted at the time. The more we dug, the more we began to feel like God was opening our eyes to what he wants us to do.

Years ago, there was a fad of wearing bracelets with WWJD on them. It stood, as I'm sure you remember, for "What Would Jesus Do?" and was meant to remind us to treat others with love at all times and in all situations. As Rebecca and I explored the roots of our faith, we kept coming back to a similar theme: What Did Jesus Do? When did he honor the Sabbath  What holidays did he celebrate? What food did he eat? The more we looked, the more we saw that Jesus, not surprisingly, was Jewish and therefore followed the Law. We started to ask ourselves, "If we are supposed to live as He lived and walk as He walked, shouldn't we be doing exactly that? If He followed the Law, shouldn't we follow the Law?" We decided at that point that we should be doing exactly that. So we started looking at what the Law actually was and what it had to say about how to live our lives. Does that mean we threw out Messiah? Absolutely not! Exactly the opposite! As we looked at the Law we saw how every aspect of it pointed to just how much we need Jesus. Over and over, we saw that God set the Law up just so that we would know Messiah when He came. No normal human could possibly keep it all without failing. If one could, then there would have been no need for things like atonement sacrifices or even a messiah. God would have said, "All you gotta do is..." and we would be able to do it. We made the decision that we would do our best to follow what is outlined in the Bible, but that we would not stress if circumstances didn't allow us to be perfect. That is exactly what Messiah came for.

What it comes down to for us is that we use the Bible as our guide for how to live. Here are a few of the ways we try to follow the Law:

-We celebrate the Sabbath starting at sundown on Friday night and do as little work as possible until sundown Saturday. It's supposed to be a true day of rest, different from the other six days. In practice, it means we don't do yard work, housework, or schoolwork. We try not to do anything that would make someone else have to work, either, so we don't go shopping or eat out. We still cook, mostly because we love to and don't think of it as work. We also wash our dishes just because I think the stress of seeing them pile up is less restful than just taking 5 minutes to wash them. Go read our good friends blog post on the Sabbath.

-We do our best to stick to the dietary laws, which means no pork (which is really tough, considering sausage used to be a food group for me), non-scaled fish (catfish or eel) or shellfish (which kills me, since I LOVE lobster and crab). However, we do take Paul's words to heart when he says to not worry about the food we eat when we are a guest in someone else's home. If we come to your house and you cook us bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with a side of crab legs and lobster tails, rest assured, I will eat them.

-We celebrate the Biblical feasts and festivals. We don't celebrate Easter or Christmas in our home. Instead, we celebrate Passover with an eye on the Last Supper and remembering the crucifixion and glorious resurrection that followed. We celebrate Christ's birth during the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall and Hanukkah in December. No Christmas trees, no presents, at least in our home. We still celebrate Christmas with our extended families since it is one of the best holidays for gathering together. To our families: Just because we have chosen not to celebrate certain holidays in our own house does not mean that we will not share in the joy that you take from that holiday by not joining you for celebrations. You guys mean the world to us and we always look forward to family gatherings, no matter when they are. Uniquely American holidays like Thanksgiving and July 4th are also ones we enjoy immensely.

-I have grown a "Biblical beard" which means I don't trim the edges at all. The length of the beard isn't important, just that if I have one, it's all or nothing. No goatee, iron jaw, Fu Manchu, mutton chops, handlebar mustache, etc...

I'm sure there are other aspects of that Law that we follow that I'm forgetting to mention and some that we don't either through ignorance, a lack of understanding or just not quite sure how to implement them. We do not get into things like Talmudic or rabbinic regulations since those are not listed in the Bible.

Are we Jewish? No. We are Christians who happen to believe that our faith's Jewish roots should not be ignored or thrown out and cannot be separated from our Messiah. Our salvation does not rest in the Law; our salvation comes through Christ alone. We believe that just because he did it perfectly doesn't mean we shouldn't honor God by doing our best to emulate Him.  We believe that the old testament and the new testament are one story, one heart and one desire of the One True Hebrew God and not an old story with old ways and then a new story that overrides the old.

You might be wondering how the kids do with it? Wonderfully. They love the richness of things like Sabbath blessings and prayers, building our sukkah, the miracle of the Hanukkah story, and all the neat ways that the Torah shows us how much we need Jesus. Ask the kids what their favorite day is and they'll gladly tell you "Shabbat!"

Ultimately, for us, what it comes down to is:

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." - Joshua 24:15b


Anonymous said...

From Joseph Squicciarini:
With regard to the statement, I agree with the tone, the direction and nearly all of the practical halachah (walk) described. Some minor differences:

* Traditions are what binds us in community. The Talmud and rabbinic writings are a treasure of understanding where some traditions came from and why. Paul specifically commands the assemblies he established to remember and keep the traditions, more than once. We embrace several that do not distract my family from the commandments; promote our relationship with the greater community of Israel and do not cause us to deny the Master.
* If you served me the meal described I would not eat it, nor do I believe Paul would (or any other obedient disciple.) I would expect that you having me over to break bread would cause us both to go out of our way to outdo one another in brotherly love, not causing the other to stumble. This has caused us to explain the dietary restrictions we have to those outside our community who desire fellowship at the table. If gluten-free, diabetics and the lactose-intolerant can review their dietary restrictions, we see no reason not to express ours, in love. That said, if we dine with a family that separates meat and dairy, we do our best to accommodate them. They, in turn, overlook their traditional halachah (not the commandment) to accommodate us, for the sake of fellowship.
* The Scripture is clear (especially at the opening of the Apostolic Writings) that we CAN keep the entire Law. In fact, Elizabeth and Zacharias were known to blameless according to the Law, as were many others. But that has nothing to do with needing a Savior, since the Law itself has remedies for when we break the Law. Being obedient to these remedies (i.e. paying a 1/5 penalty when a loaned item is damaged) is actually keeping the Law. We are told over and over again that the Law is near us, easy, not a burden, the expectation is we will keep it. Being born on this earth, in this state, requires a Savior, not breaking a commandment. Children are not accountable to the Law until they reach a certain age, yet they need a Savior, just like the rest of us. On the flip side, obedience to the Law does not negate the need for a Savior either. Paul boasted that he was top-shelf when it came to Torah obedience.

The awakening your family describes is happening all over the country. G-d is at work, moving in the lives of His holy ones. Please let your family know that we would welcome them for Shabbat prayers, oneg (fellowship) and portion discussion. Our community, Bella Torah, meets this Shabbat. (

Jeremy said...

Hey Joseph,

Thanks for your comments! As I read your points, I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with you and had to go back to look at what we had posted. It's amazing to me to read it now and see just how much our views have changed in such a short time. We are standing firm in the call we feel G-d has placed on us to raise our children in a Torah-observant household.

Anonymous said...

As I was reading the post, I thought to myself, "Yep, we thought exactly the same things, a bit ago..." HaShem has a way of moving us down the path.