Learning to Be Echad
by Lonnie Lane
Rabbi Shaul, otherwise known as Paul by the Greek speaking community, spoke both Hebrew as a Jew and Greek as a Roman citizen. His concept of “one new man” which he addressed in Ephesians 2:13-15, though written in Greek, would likely have come quite naturally from his understanding of the Hebrew word echad which means a plural unity. It means several being as one. Take for example that one cluster of grapes is made up of a number of individual grapes, or that one congregation is comprised of many members. More amazingly, as you may be aware, the Sh’ma, the prayer of Deuteronomy 6:4, prayed by Jews the world over daily says “Hear (Sh’ma listen!) O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one,” that is, “the Lord is echad.” Without realizing it, Israel is proclaiming the plurality of God in saying that prayer.
Since those of us who belong to Messiah Yeshua are being conformed both individually and corporately to His image and since He is one with the Father, it stands to reason that we are being built together as one, as echad as God is echad. Does that mean we’ll all see things the same way? That we’ll always agree? Ultimately that’s likely but in the meantime we’re still in process. That’s part of what the church is about, as I see it, God’s people learning to be echad.
Admittedly I’m in favor of house churches at this point, though I’d prefer to call them Havurah groups, that is, a relatively small group of friends getting together, in this case in each other’s homes. (Haver, the root of Havurah, means “friend” in Hebrew. You may recall President Clinton saying at Itzak Rabin’s funeral, “Shalom, haver “Goodbye, friend.”)
We don’t always start out as friends in a house church for often we don’t know each other well when we join a group or come together initially. But as we get to know one another and begin to trust and share our lives, true friendship replaces the more courteous and polite ‘fellowship’ of a more structured setting. Becoming ‘at home’ in someone else’s house or having others familiar with yours does something to make you closer. Something about doing the dishes or helping out in the kitchen to prepare dinner goes a long way to making you family. Or when one of the guys comes over to help fix some electrical or plumbing problem. Bonding; it’s all very bonding a matter of doing life together.
One of the things that also makes you closer is plowing through some disagreements. The experience in our house church is that everyone does not see everything the same way. Especially since we, being an expression of ‘one new man’ come from diverse backgrounds as Jews, Gentiles, blacks, whites and even one non-American. We recently had one of those times when a misunderstanding happened between two of our members, who are ordinarily stable people.
‘She’ interpreted what ‘he’ said in a way he didn’t actually mean though it could have been interpreted that way. She got hurt; he felt misunderstood. It was too emotionally weighty to fix that night and so she left early after an attempt at prayer. So what to do? She didn’t come to the next meeting and it wasn’t until two meetings later when someone brought it up and said, “So is this resolved?” No, it wasn’t. Buried, but not resolved.
The group urged the reconciliation and finally each was ‘heard’ by the other and there was forgiveness between them. They had needed, however, the loving and safe atmosphere of the whole group for that to take place. It potentially was the kind of thing that causes church splits, or at least someone leaving a church. It could have had that magnitude. In a group of 20 people one family leaving would constitute a “magnitude.” But the nature of the group and the commitment to each other prevailed and the incident served instead as mortar to make the group stronger. We now know, by God’s Great Grace, we can survive that kind of incident, should it ever happen again, and be a place of safety where each is valued and dignity is protected despite differences of opinion.
We the church are, after all, stones being built together into the household of God and sometimes it’s not exactly a fit until the Holy Spirit does some polishing through a loving interaction among brothers and sisters. Speaking the truth IN LOVE has new meaning to us. We’ve learned that one of the things that are more likely to happen in a house church format it that discussions are often thought provoking and challenging as we explore what a verse or an issue means to us. Since anyone is free to voice their opinion or ask questions of the others, what might go by unaddressed in a sermon or a Bible class without comment is more likely to be dealt with.
Take for instance the comment made by one of our guys who had been a pastor at one time. He expressed as truth something he’d learned in seminary when he said, “In the New Testament there’s mercy and you can be forgiven but in the Old Testament God might kill you for sinning….” He went on briefly with what he was saying about the wrath of God in the Old Testament as compared with the New until one of our Jewish members said, “Wait, wait a minute. That’s not correct. That comes from a misunderstanding of Who the God of the Old Covenant is and is based on anti-Jewish doctrines that are many centuries old yet which the church often still holds onto. It’s a misrepresentation of God. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. While grace is realized in Messiah Yeshua, it was still there in the Old Covenant. The whole sacrificial system was about forgiveness.”
This led to other’s thoughts on the subject. “God in the Torah provided for sinners to be restored to Him through atonement and to man through recompense for the loss. God even provided a city of refuge for violators if they needed safety for a designated time. That’s a major part of what Torah is God’s mercy and His love toward Israel, His provisions and His promises.” Another contributed, “God’s love and tenderness toward Israel is all over the Old Testament. His anger only came after years of dealing with them and pleading with them through the prophets to repent and come back to Him so He wouldn’t have to bring judgment to correct them.” “And His motive was always to bring them back under His wings, not to destroy them,” said another.
It became clear that God’s reputation, at least in our little group, was rescued from a residual misinterpretation of His intentions toward Israel which had developed long ago in an anti-Semitic bias of church leadership. It took some humility on the part of our ex-seminarian to see that he’d been taught incorrectly and hadn’t rethought it. Someone mentioned the statement in Romans 11 that the salvation of the Jews would mean life from the dead. “Perhaps it’s for reasons like this, that Jewish people bring a needed correction about such issues as this. It gives us more of an understanding of the true heart of God.”
John said, “We know that when He appears we’ll be like Him because we shall see Him just as He is.” (1 Jn. 3:2) In principle that may not only mean when He comes in the sky and returns to earth to reign. Perhaps with each revelation of the heart of God that we share, as we “see Him” in that revelation we are more and more conformed to His image and become more like Him. That may be the real issue of becoming echad coming to know the heart of God together.
If you have any questions or comments you’d like to address to Lonnie, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be glad to respond to you. Use this same address to contact Lonnie about speaking engagements. Please put “To Lonnie” in the subject line.
Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships one with her brother Michael Lane in the Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked.” She is the Producer of Messianic Vision’s radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision’s intercessors.