The internet survey conducted among about 250 young Messianic Jews1 aged 20-35 from the “four corners of Israel” conducted in January 2022 looks at how the surrounding culture has affected the faith of young Israeli believers and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in the Jewish state. In-depth interviews with six young Messianic Jews from diverse backgrounds were also included in the survey.
Based on the results, the ICB team looked at three modern worldviews influencing young Messianic Jews in Israel.
See related: Is There a Messianic Jewish Theology? (Part 1)
Individualism is defined here by the idea that meaning comes from the individual person. Individualism manifests itself in a lifestyle focused on the self.
Consumerism is the idea that fulfillment and satisfaction can be found in abundance or prosperity, wealth, and other material things. That the more we consume, the more we will be satisfied and fulfilled.
Relativism is the idea that there is no absolute truth, and the value of a thing is a relative matter determined by a person’s point of view, differences in perception and judgment.
In addition to the survey results, the report summary written by Jonathan Granovsky includes a number of conclusions.
Here’s how these three modern worldviews are influencing young Messianic Jews in Israel:
1. “Believe as long as you don’t hurt another.”
From their answers it was shown that young Messianic Jews in Israel are in what the reports calls an “internal trap.”
On the one hand, they believe that there is one absolute truth, for example that Jesus is the only way to God, and that there are universal benchmarks for questions on morality.
On the other hand, they find it difficult to hold to these truths when the result may be that someone might get hurt.
Over 60% identified themselves as believers who live according to their faith-based worldview as long as it does not offend others. Even if the young Messianic Jews believe with all their heart in the reliability of God and His word, the effects of relativistic thinking make it difficult to apply the Bible’s teachings in their lives.
In today’s world, anyone who believes that there is one God, or moral truth is considered narrow-minded, arrogant or ignorant. Living with a worldview that truth may be relative creates a situation in which young Messianic Jews might avoid talking about things like sin, or refuse to acknowledge that the Gospels teach only “one way” to God, because doing so would be “offensive.”
This way of thinking is reflected in the common adage “live and let live,” a philosophy supported by a distortion of Habakkuk’s “A man by his faith shall live.”
2. I am me, and I am special.
About 80% of the Messianic Jewish youth surveyed identified positively with a person who often “does things in his or her way.” About 65% believe that living as a unique individual is important.
Messianic Jews in Israel say that individuality and doing things in your own way without influence from the surroundings is important. Yet they feel pressured by society’s expectations and might sacrifice their “uniqueness” by adjusting themselves to societies expectations.
[Editor’s note: Similar expectations are common within the Church or Messianic communities and can stifle appropriate expressions of individual thinking.]
A worldview that puts the individual at the center is not in accordance with the character of Jesus’ disciples, who are called to deny themselves and submit to the Messiah’s authority, the summary concludes, quoting Jesus’ words: “Not my will, but your will be done” (Mt. 20:39).
Mixing Messianic faith with individualism may create “auditors” or nominal believers in the Messianic Jewish congregations. This endangers the Messianic community because any interference into the personal lives of the believer by the congregation could be seen as an offense against an individual and his or her right to be unique.
The report points out that the desire for uniqueness can be harnessed for initiatives and activities in the congregations and Messianic organizations and advance the kingdom as long as there is appropriate guidance and supervision by those in authority. This may allow Messianic youth to experience a sense of value and belonging to the community.
See related: Disorientation for Israeli Messianic Jews
3. I compare myself with others, but I am not in competition.
There is a discrepancy in how the young Messianic Jews understand themselves. Although most young Messianic Jews do not see themselves in competition with society, they admit that it was important for them to live and work better than others.
Young people who claim to be Messianic and not in competition with others but still compare themselves to others are denying the influence that culture has on them, the reports states. The severity of this problem, the report suggests, is that this denial of cultural influences is contrary to reality. Messianic Jewish youth are in fact influenced by their surroundings when they compare themselves to others, but they think that they are not.
The report says that this “destructive nature of comparing oneself with others” may lead to damaging the self-image of Messianic Jewish youth. Especially among young women, they say, though not exclusively.
Too much comparing with others may also inspire pride, which when it comes in the guise of spiritual or religious superiority, can be particularly deceptive and dangerous.
The team from ICB that compiled the survey and offered conclusions hope that facing the reality of how Messianic Jewish youth understand their faith will contribute to the spiritual life of the Messianic Jewish congregations in Israel and their work among the next generation of young Messianic Jews and the particular struggles they face in modern society.
- The report designates young believers as “Messianic” and not “Messianic Jews” apparently due to the fact that a considerable number of young Messianics prefer not to consider themselves Jewish, do not identify with the term Messianic Jews, or are not Jewish. See – Is the Future of Messianics Jewish? ↩︎
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