The Reason I Wear the Fringes
My testimony is not unique… it is like many thousands of others who have found fulfillment in their discovery of Torah.
I grew up in a charismatic church with a great family that loved the Father, surrounded by friends who were equally passionate for Him. I can probably count on one hand the number of church services I missed in my entire childhood and teenage years. “Sword drills” and Bible quizzes came natural to me, and the Sunday School teacher always looked to me when no one else in the class could answer the question. I had a heart for reaching others at an early age, and thought I would go into some form of full-time ministry.
I went to Bible College with my best friend for one year, only to find that for some reason I didn’t fit in. I wore the clothes, talked the talk, hung with the “right” people and tried my best to be a preacher or evangelist by my denomination’s definition of the word. I just felt fake. I felt like I was trying to please the Father through acting like someone else, or following the standards of a manmade religion rather than Scripture. When I questioned the doctrines or the methods I was said to be “in rebellion.” From my perspective, I just wanted the truth.
I can remember sitting in a church service several years ago when my pastor started studying and teaching on “The Laws of God.” At one point, he brought out a set of tephillin (phylacteries). I thought it was interesting, but the word “legalism” was running through my head faster than I could consciously process it. When he made the claim that Jesus actually wore these things, I nearly had a hernia. Fuming, I leaned over to my fiancée (now my wife) and said something like, “There is no way on earth that Jesus would have EVER worn those things! He came to free us from the legalism of the Old Testament! There is NO way you will EVER convince me otherwise.” If I have learned anything about making rash statements, it is that they almost always come back to haunt you.
I can look back now, and laugh about it. However, at the time, my emotions were in high-gear. I was passionately opposed to the pastor’s remarks, because his remarks were opposed to the Jesus I had always known (or thought I had known). He was tampering with an icon, and I wasn’t about to let him. How could the Jesus I had always known possibly be different than what I had always thought? If there was a chance that everything I had put my hope in could change, then could I have ever really known the Father? It wasn’t something I truly wanted to address at that time.
Through the next several years I continued to think of anything Jewish or related to the “Old Testament” to be synonymous with legalism. At one point, my wife became interested in studying about the Sabbath. I essentially told her that she was going to put herself “back under the Law,” and that the “spirit of grace” would depart her for “returning to Egypt.” Sure, I thought that I was only “protecting” her. But the spirit in which I spoke to her was anything other than the Holy Spirit.
As time progressed, I began to have more and more questions regarding Scripture. The “canned” answers just weren’t enough. I saw more inconsistencies with my theology than I did consistencies. I wanted to know the truth of Scripture and the God of the Bible, more than having my understanding affirmed. There were struggles about the character and nature of the Father. Had He changed from the “God of Law” as portrayed in my understanding of the Old Testament, into a “God of Grace” since the New Testament? If He was, why did He change? Isn’t He the God who does not change? And if He had become the God of Grace, why were churches and denominations so legalistic about it? Why do we embrace the Ten Commandments, but then say that only nine of them are truly applicable to Christians? These and other questions led me on a quest for truth.
A few years after I got married, I somehow agreed to attend a conference on Jewish Roots. It was my downfall. I saw genuine people all around me asking the tough questions, and heard ministers and professors discussing them and admitting they didn’t understand some things—without any kind of threat to their self-esteem. They weren’t avoiding the tough questions; they were wrestling with them—and without their feelings getting hurt. I also saw people speak of Jesus in a way I had never heard. They were speaking on deep levels with more than a scholarly level of understanding. They were expressing a love for God’s Torah (law) that I had never seen. They actually believed that it was something wonderful, given by God, and not something legalistic and man-made.
It was the birthing of something deep within me, as if the Holy Spirit finally had my attention. But this Jesus I was beginning to discover was SO different from the one I had always known. The whole idea of him being different than what I knew him to be was both frightening and liberating at the same time. Was this the “real” Jesus I had somehow missed through all of my church attendance, Sunday School classes, church camps, Bible-studies and even Bible College?
Through a journey that has been a slow and painful process, I now understand what I did not understand then. At that crucial point several years ago, it wasn’t that Jesus was actually changing, but simply a mental image of who I thought Jesus was, or who I wanted him to be. I now know Jesus from a context that is not based upon a denominational perspective or a personal conceptualization, but upon who the Scriptures clearly say he is.
With my new understanding of the Jesus of Scripture and the goodness of Torah, several things have changed in our family. We have been thoroughly enjoying celebrating the Feasts of the Lord, delighting in the Sabbath, eating foods that the Lord created for our sustenance, and applying Biblical principles to our business. All while being blessed in the process!
Now, I wear the fringes in accordance with Numbers 15:37-41. It serves basically the same purpose as the WWJD bracelets that came out several years ago. It reminds me that in every situation, I am to remember Whose I am, and how to respond to that situation. It reminds me that I am consecrated unto the Lord, and everything I do should be a reflection of Him. I do not wear them in order to be righteous, but as a response to what the Lord is doing in my life. It is a way for me to honor the only One worthy of honor, and to possibly hear His voice a little clearer through obedience in the small things.
Wearing the fringes isn’t always easy. Not only do you have to overcome the fear of man, but there are awkward times as well. Mine have gone through it all. They have experience everything from getting sucked into a leaf-blower, to being eaten by a goat. It seems they are always in the wrong place at the right time. Nevertheless, they serve as a constant reminder of my relationship to my heavenly Father.
Jesus wore the fringes as well. It was the fringes through which the power of the Father flowed when taken hold of by the woman “with the issue of blood.” Her faith in the Messiah, coupled with her understanding of Scripture, brought healing to her. She understood that if Jesus really was the Messiah, he would have the ability to heal her by just the touching of his tzitzit (fringes) based on the original Hebrew behind Malachi 4:2. Jesus’ obedience to Torah brought healing to this woman. What will my obedience do? If Jesus were walking the earth in physical form today, What Would Jesus Wear?