Growing up as a teen in this generation is hard. Add to that growing up with biblically-based morals and being a part of a religion and it gets really hard. Then add being Messianic and things start seeming nearly impossible.
Most people have absolutely no idea what Messianic Judaism is. That makes it weird. I certainly believe in my faith and Messianic Judaism, yet, I am not afraid to admit that we are kind of a weird religion. Sadly, most see us as weird not just because we are Messianic, but because so many kids are straying away from faith and embracing secularism. In addition, when secular people experience religious people judging them for who they are, they get a bad impression of religion and what faith in God and Yeshua looks like.
When you are a teen in public school who also happens to be a Messianic Gentile, like me, people really start to get confused. When I’m at school and anyone follows me on social media and sees my occasional posts about Hanukkah or Passover, they immediately ask “Aharon, are you Jewish?” Then the worst part comes when I respond with “No.” They usually look puzzled as I try to explain my weird religion in their terms. I usually say something like, “I’m not Jewish, but I do Jewish things,” and, “I believe in Jesus but I don’t do Christian things.” This generally leads to more puzzled looks. Or how about explaining the whole kosher certified meat thing? “I can’t eat your meat but I can eat certain meat.” And then I have to explain the concept of kashrut standards. I especially struggle with this one because, I don’t know about other teens, but I really don’t want to announce to anyone that I can only eat meat that has been killed by slitting its throat and then hung up till all the blood has drained out. This starts to sound like we sacrifice our meat when that’s not at all what it is about.
All my life I’ve never had an easy answer to explain my religion. Messianic Judaism is a complex religion full of complex issues. However, I want to embrace this weird religion despite all the questions it raises and images it portrays. We do not need other people’s perception of our religion to define us. We should show others in school and in our lives that we don’t have to fit in the box of their perception of religion. Many see religion in America as a choice between being Christian, atheist, or agnostic. I am a living example that you do not need heritage in a religion to belong to a faith. Just because you are Jewish doesn’t mean you are automatically a rabbi, and just because you are “White Anglo-Saxon” doesn’t mean you are a Protestant Christian. As Messianic Jews and Gentiles, we are supposed to be a light to the nations, and part of that involves teaching the nations to think outside the box of religion. Being a Messianic Jew or Gentile is a struggle. Honestly, I sometimes am embarrassed to say who I am. But regardless of how I feel, I always do.
In today’s day and age, I feel it is incredibly important to show my friends and anyone at school that religion is not full of negativity and judgmentalism. I want to challenge the negative connotation of religion and bad reputation that discipleship to Yeshua has among secular kids. I want to show them what it really looks like.
Messianic Judaism and followers of Yeshua should first and foremost be expressing the love of the Master to the world. Our expression of faith goes back to the earliest disciples of Yeshua, it’s something to be proud of, and we have much to offer the world. Stay strong in who you are and what your faith means to you. Be a light to the world, embrace the weird of Messianic Judaism. This doesn’t mean you need to be arrogant or boastful about your faith. That is where we lose people. Be humble and be an example to the world. We may not all be writing books or teaching in South Africa and New Zealand, but we do truly have the ability to change the future of the Messianic faith and its reputation in the world.