We are a unique generation. We are the first generation to be born into the Messianic/Hebraic Roots faith. Many of us having no background or understanding of Christmas, Easter or any other norm of Christianity. We were raised following the commandments. We can quote Torah and debunk the misconception about the law being nailed to the cross. We know all the food commandments and can quickly explain the sheet of unclean entrées in Peter’s dream. We know our Bibles.
But there is a dilemma. There’s a problem. A large number of young people are leaving the Messianic/Hebraic way. Almost every young person I know can name more than a few friends who have walked away. Why are teenagers who grow up immersed in the Bible suddenly leaving as soon as they turn 18?
1. We grew up watching our congregations split multiple times over issues that shouldn’t be issues. As teenagers we saw it first hand. We finally met friends who believed like us— or so we thought. Slowly but surely little things came out: name pronunciation, head-covers, skirts, pants, Equinox, Aviv Barley, pastor or no pastor. Gone were the words “Love thy neighborhood as thyself”. The nasty emails began coming in. Name calling, accusations and finally the split. This was our world. Our friendships ended because of a Hebrew letter.
2. Shunning and belittling are common in this way. I’ve experienced a few and have heard many stories of shunning. If someone doesn’t believe like you, the best way to show your righteousness is by not allowing your children to talk to their children. That way, your family won’t become tainted. One girl I know, recalls a time she was belittled because she chose to wear a denim skirt and a tee shirt instead of a long sleeved dress. Shunning wasn’t uncommon for a lot of us and most of the time it wasn’t over a Torah defined sin. This, obviously, does not coincide with the biblical love our parents told us about.
3. My third reason is perhaps the biggest reason young people are questioning their faith. The focus of so many Messianic families is only keeping and knowing the laws. There is no mention of the heart of the letter. We are taught to follow blindly like robots. Keep the Sabbath. Celebrate the festivals. Don’t eat pork. We know exactly what to do, and probably say: “Because it’s in the Bible”.
But God didn’t just write out a list of do’s and don’ts for us to randomly obey. To follow blindly is to be immature and legalistic, like the Pharisees.
Small children follow their parents blindly. They are legalistic. Comfort comes from knowing the boundaries. If Mom says “you have to eat your vegetables” then they have to eat them. As a child grows they begin to understand why the rules are in place.
As spiritually immature children of God, we are legalistic. If some one isn’t following the law exactly how we would, we get upset. We tattle and tell on them. They are wrong.
A child of God who is maturing seeks to understand the heart of the Torah that Yahshua explains. The letter of the law will always be valid, but when you understand the reason WHY you were told to eat your veggies, you can then apply that principle to other areas of life. You can practice other healthy habits: eating vegetables, exercising, and drinking plenty of water.
But so many of us haven’t been taught the heart behind the rules. All we know is the dos and don’ts and when no one is there to enforce them, we stray.
But now, it’s up to us.
We are no longer under the headship of our parents. The Bible says there is no excuse. It’s up to us to wade through the mess of Messianic and find the true love and heart that God intended. We cannot be immature and follow blindly and we cannot simply throw the baby out with the bath water. It’s up to this generation to create a community of love and strength in Yahweh and in each other. I’ve already seen so many young people rising to the occasion. It’s up to us to foster a place of hope and heart for our children.