Whew… this is a tough question for Christians to answer at times because the answer is more than occasionally YES if you just base your answer on the “eye test.”
Many Christians are not as friendly to the environment as we should be.
Many Christians do not understand the English definition of “Tikkun Olam” (repair the world) much less the Hebrew concept of the phrase.
Many Christians fail at the Torah and admonition from Jesus to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Tzedakah Ministries and Explore Messiah…? admits it freely, unreservedly and sadly.
For … We are who believers in Jesus should and can do better but not because we have to do better but because we get to do better.
I know that is a rather strange concept to express but give Explore Messiah…? a few sentences to explain ourselves with two quick examples.
FIRST – The Pirkei Avot (Sayings of the Fathers) states: “Ben Azzai would say: ‘Run to pursue a minor mitzvah, and flee from a transgression. For a mitzvah brings another mitzvah, and a transgression brings another transgression. For the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah, and the reward of transgression is transgression.’” (4:2)
On the surface, this is a nice saying from Ben Azzai but if you consider it below the surface it is nothing but the illustration of a hamster in a cage on his wheel running a never-ending race. You complete a mitzvah (good deed) and your reward is the need to do another mitzvah and another one and another one. It is the like the song that never ends because your good deeds are never good enough.
The Apostle Paul explains the life of a truly devoted believer in Jesus in another way: For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto [to do] good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
In the life of a believer in Jesus, we receive what we understand as salvation/atonement by no work of our own but by grace through faith because it is God’s gift to us. Ultimately, we have no bragging rights but because of our gratitude for what was done for us … we will and should do good works for Him. It is not required of us but it is our opportunity to express our appreciation and our thankfulness.
Now … do many who call themselves Christians fail at this appreciative act? Absolutely! However, that is a failure on our part and not a reflection of how we should behave. Which brings us to the SECOND POINT…
SECOND – We can find written in the Bava Qamma 2:6: “A man is always responsible, whether his act is intentional or inadvertent, whether he is awake or asleep.” I personally find this statement interesting in the light of an anecdote about whether Christianity is nothing but “Judaism Light.”
I (Amy Downey) was listening to a live presentation between a Disciples of Christ minister and a Jewish rabbi. They were discussing what redemption entails and the Disciples of Christ minister did an excellent job of explaining atonement. The rabbi, in my opinion, condescendingly explained that while Christians let someone else do the job for them that Jewish people secured their own atonement through their own righteous deeds.
During the Q/A, I raised my hand and asked the rabbi to explain how his explanation was possible in light of Isaiah 64:5 in the Jewish Publication Society version – “And we are all become as one that is unclean, and all our righteousnesses are as a polluted garment; and we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Aside from the fact that the rabbi was unaware of this verse, he was stuck for an answer to the fact that our absolute best is garbage, menstrual rags, that is blown away as the wind before God.
One of his friends in the audience attempted to come to the rabbi’s rescue and proceeded to compare belief in Jesus as nothing more than “Judaism Light.” Interesting question the guy raised –
Is belief in Jesus nothing more than “kosher bacon” or is it something more as I pointed out to him?
I asked the rabbi’s friend if he had ever read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) which is the instruction book for believers in Jesus. Jesus basically laid out for His followers how they (we) are supposed to live if we believe in Him and if you compare it closely – it looks remarkably like the Torah’s commandments – no killing, no adultery, no stealing and beyond.
However, Jesus took them a step further because he said that if you had hate in your heart for someone – you were guilty of murder. Jesus said that if you had lust in your heart, you were guilty of adultery. Jesus said that if you gave to the Temple but let your parents suffer, you were guilty of stealing. Ultimately, Jesus took the Torah and made it impossible to follow … unless you surrendered yourself to Him.
But here is where it gets interesting because Jesus said that He did not come to abolish the Torah to fulfill it all … and He did (Matthew 5:17-20). We cannot do it but He did it all for us. We simply have to give our hearts to Him (remember that Matthew 11:28-30 passage) and He takes care of the rest. Believing in Jesus is the most Jewish act we can do because Jesus wants us to take Jewish values and live them not because we have to do so but because we want to do so.
He wants us to not hate because it is murder. He wants us to not lust because at its core it is adultery. He wants us to take care of our family because that is the greatest value of them all. He also wants us to live out a life of love, empathy, compassion to the world to emulate His example.
So while many who profess to be believers in Jesus are LOUSY examples, true believers in Jesus know we must and should do better – not because we have to but because we want to do better. Perhaps this is why Jesus said near the close of the Sermon on the Mount the following:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them. Not everyone that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:15-23)
Did Explore Messiah…? answer this question completely? Of course not but I hope we have begun to answer on an exploratory level. Christians failed during the Holocaust as we have admitted and we still fail today; however, this is not the fault of Messiah Jesus but the fault of those who profess His name. Let’s talk about it more at CAFE Kehillah Discussion Board and why don’t you explore the next question — What’s In It For Me?