Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Story: Part 8

My Story: Index
Continued from part 7...

Community life in Hudson was significantly different than community life at Friend Ships.

At Friend Ships, life was secluded from the real word.  We lived behind a long chain-linked fence, and, if desired, we never had to leave the compound.  Our meals were prepared for us, laundry was done for us, job duties were assigned to us, and work clothes were given to us (via donations).  Thus, in my opinion (other crew members would probably disagree), we lived very easy, simple lives.

In Hudson, however, we lived mostly normal lives.  We lived in houses or apartments, sometimes located within walking distance of Beth Immanuel.  Everybody had to work, make money, pay bills, cook, clean, and basically live like normal people.  Except we kept the Torah.

Not all of us, however, kept the Torah at the same level.  Some members decided to keep the Torah at the level of orthodox Jews (while keeping faith in Jesus).  Others kept the Torah at the level they felt personally comfortable with.  Still others didn't keep much Torah at all due to the more common understanding that gentiles (most Hudson community members were gentiles) should acknowledge the importance of Torah in both interpreting the New Testament and informing one's own worldview, but should not be considered obligated to the laws of Torah in the same way that a Jewish person is.  Throughout my stay in the Hudson community, I had belonged to each of these different "camps."

When I first arrived in Hudson, my understanding was that all people, regardless of whether they were Jews or Gentiles, were obligated to keep the whole Torah.  This idea, colloquially referred to as "One Law," was informed by passages like Ephesians 2 (which talks about there no longer being a distinction between Jew and Gentile, but rather "one new man") and Numbers 15:30-31 (which can be interpreted to mean that both Jew and gentile are obligated to the same commandments in the Torah).  Not long after arriving in Hudson, however, I changed my mind from "One Law" to something akin to what is now colloquially referred to as "Divine Invitation."

According to "Divine Invitation," gentiles were not obligated to keep Torah at the level that a Jew was obligated, but they were "invited to participate" in the practice of Torah by the call of discipleship to Jesus.  This idea was informed by passages such as Acts 15 (which seems to imply that there was a different set of rules for gentiles than there was for Jews), the book of Galatians (which can be interpreted as being directed mainly at gentiles, rather than at Jews) and Matthew 28 (in which Jesus commands the apostles to make disciples, i.e. Torah observers, of all nations, i.e. gentiles).

One reason that I became part of the "Divine Invitation" camp was that it was similar to the stance that orthodox sects of Judaism have historically taken toward gentiles.  This stance is that gentiles are not obligated to keep the Torah at the same level that Jewish people are.  Rather, gentiles are obligated (according to orthodox Jewish understanding) to another set of laws that, while still being based on the Torah and having some overlap with the set of laws that Jews are obligated to keep, is different than that of the Jewish people.  This set of laws, based mainly on the laws given by God to Noah in the book of Genesis, is known as the "Noahide Laws."  As it turns out, the Noahide Laws are very similar to the laws listed by the apostles in Acts 15 as the laws that were to apply to the gentiles.  In fact, some scholars understand the Noahide laws to be directly linked to the laws of Acts 15.  However, according to orthodox Judaism, if a gentile desires to keep more of the Torah than they are obligated (perhaps due to a great love of the Jewish people or laws of Torah), then they can convert to Judaism (by a kind of "Divine Invitation"), and thus obligate themselves to the Jewish laws of the Torah. 

As a member of the "Divine Invitation" camp, I occasionally found myself living almost like an orthodox Jew: eating kosher, keeping the Sabbath, praying daily in Hebrew, wearing tzitzit under my shirt, letting my beard grow, etc.  At other times, however, I found myself living as a gentile who kept the Noahide Laws: basically, acting like a good person.  I would slowly go back and forth, always studying, praying, and believing in Jesus, trying to figure out which path was best.

I never did figure out which path was best.  I was prepared, though, to spend the rest of my life wrestling with such questions... until a different set of questions began to take over my attention.   

That's what I'll write about in my next post.

Go to part 9...

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