Each year that I read through the Bible, I continually find new nuggets of truth that enrich my life. And this year, I’m picking up more nuggets concerning the Jewish roots of our faith. The Apostle Paul (Rav Sha’ul) was a Jewish leader who lived a Jewish lifestyle before he put his faith in His Messiah, Yeshua. What people don’t often realize is that he lived as a Jewish person after he put his faith in Yeshua, as well.
When Paul stood to give his defense for his faith in Yeshua before a Jewish synagogue in Rome, he said, “I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors” (Acts 28:17). Paul lived his daily life as a Jew, including eating kosher meals (i.e., no pork). Yet he was the apostle to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7). His ministry caused him to live among Gentiles who didn’t eat kosher meals (i.e., they ate pork). How do we reconcile this?
Paul’s life is a perfect example of Yeshua’s prayer in John 17:15-16. Paul was in the world. He lived around people who were totally different from him. But he was not of this world. He didn’t let their lifestyle affect his. He let the love of Yeshua shine through his life even though he surrounded himself with people who not only lived in darkness, but were extremely dark in their behavior (see Eph. 5:8).
Understanding our Jewish roots gives us insight into what Yeshua was saying about being in but not of the world. Yeshua didn’t pray for us to be removed from the world the moment we came to faith in Him. He didn’t pray for us to stay in our comfort zones away from the world. No, He prayed that God would protect us, as He did Paul, as we enter the world to accomplish His mission.
Yeshua commanded us to go into the entire world making healthy believers. This “go” means knowing and entering into the worlds of those around us – even though that world may be totally different than our own. Paul was not offended by someone eating pork, though he personally chose not to eat it himself. He simply let the Spirit use Yeshua’s message of love to change lives.
It is my hope that we will be like Paul and go into the huge hurting world around us, captives who need to be set free, people of all kinds of different cultures than our own, and bring the same life changing message Paul brought. And who knows, the Spirit may use us to see the same results Paul experienced – he turned the world upside down.
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