Burning Your Neighbor’s Field

Burning Your Neighbor’s Field

Boundaries are healthy. We all have a plot of ground in which God is planting us, and growing a field of grace which forms our contribution to the greater “land” of God’s people. If we fail to respect those boundaries, we violate our brother’s “field”. Learn how the rulings of the sages in the Talmud concerning these laws in the Torah can affect our view of our ministry and the responsibilities we have regarding it.

Unity in Diversty

Unity in Diversty

“….by revelation there was made known to me the mystery…” (Eph.3:3)

It is tempting, yes, inevitable, that we will gravitate to the folks who champion our opinions.

Much is made about the fragmentation of the body of Messiah, sometimes too much.

It is not necessarily a bad thing to have groups who gather together to discuss, argue and even celebrate their distinctiveness from others. The trouble lies not in distinction, but in separation.

How do I cultivate a spirit of acceptance towards others who look, sound, and even think much different than I? Perhaps one place to start is by being thankful for their existence.

Yes. We do, in fact, need each other. Even when we disagree.

The Talmud has within its pages a curious passage in the tractate called Berakhot (meaning “Blessings”):

“The sages taught in a Tosefta: One who sees multitudes o Israel recites: Blessed…Who knows all secrets. Why is this? He sees a whole nation whose minds are unlike each other and whose faces are unlike each other, and He Who knows all secrets, God, knows what is in each of their hearts. The Gemara relates: Ben Zoma once saw a multitude of Israel while standing on a stair on the Temple Mount. He immediately recited: Blessed…Who knows all secrets and Blessed…Who created all these to serve me.

Explaining his custom, he would say: How much effort did Adam the first man exert before he found bread to eat: He plowed, sowed, reaped, sheaved, threshed, winnowed in the wind, separated the grain from the chaff, ground the grain into flour, sifted, kneaded, and baked and only thereafter he ate. And I, on the other hand, wake up and find all of these prepared for me. Human society employs a division of labor, and each individual benefits from the service of the entire world. Similarly, how much effort did Adam the first man exert before he found a garment to wear? He sheared, laundered, combed, spun and wove, and only thereafter he found a garment to wear. And I, on the other hand, wake up and find all of these prepared for me. Members of all nations, merchants and craftsmen, diligently come to the entrance of my home, and I wake up and find all of these before me” (Talmud, Berakhot 58a, Koren Steinsaltz edition, emphasis mine).

In a day of political and religious tension, it is important to remember that the man or woman whom you are tempted to denigrate or criticize (often for good reason) is someone who serves a vital, though perhaps unrecognized, role in our lives.

This week is the traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving. It celebrates an event in which two people groups so very different from one another, the Native Americans and the European settlers, came together in the bond of peace for a common cause: celebrating life and, as it were, survival.

Despite the shameful future of the white man’s dealings with the Indians, (it should be remembered also, in today’s culture of revisionist history, that most Indians were not as gracious as the group at Plymouth Plantation), a legacy which is impossible to defend, we would do well to remember that it is entirely possible to put such racial memory aside for the sake of peace.

In this season of thanksgiving, perhaps we should remember to be thankful for our enemies. And to pray for them, even.

After all, we share the same soil.



Who is the Free Woman in Galatians 4?

Who is the Free Woman in Galatians 4?

Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, she is our mother.

                                                                        – Galatians 4:25-26

No other book of the Bible feeds the narrative of Replacement Theology quite like Galatians. It is the Holy Grail of the paradigm of Law vs. Grace.

Galatians chapter 4 represents the conclusion of Paul’s thematic argument against the Judaizers who sought to change his gospel in the minds of his followers. The first thing we need understand, then, is who the Judaizers were, and what they were doing. It is commonly believed that they were busy telling Paul’s Gentile converts to Christianity that they needed to continue to obey the law of Moses. They didn’t realize that these Jesus-following Gentiles were free from the law! And Paul was really mad!  However, we learn through a careful study of the context of the epistle that the real issue was formal conversion to Judaism, not obedience to God’s commandments.

A Judaizer is not someone who tells you that you should obey the law. It is someone who believes that you must be legally Jewish to be saved.

In Gal.4:21, Paul issues a challenge to those who are converting, saying, “Tell me, you who want to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?” He then gives his famous allegory of the slave woman and the free woman. Those born of the slave woman are “of the flesh”, while those born of the free woman are born of “promise”.

First, we must understand that when Paul uses the phrase “under the law”, he is not talking about someone who is forsaking grace, as though grace is opposed to law. No, he is referring to a person who is taking on legal Jewish identity through conversion.  Continue reading