I am certain that this is strange to some, and offensive to others.
Just as a woman, ever since after the first woman, Eve, is a female from her conception, so, too, is a Jew whose parents are both Jews genetically. We are descendants of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. To get really legalistic, we would also be of the tribe of Judah. Since it is uncertain today from which tribe we may be from, all those whose lineage is from “the Fathers” are called Jews today (as we also were in the days of the Messiah and His Apostles), just as the “all Israel” that will be saved will not be limited to the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom only, or to only the tribe of Judah, but to the full remnant from all the 12 Tribes of the Children of Jacob/Israel.
Being a Jew is a DNA thing; being a Christian is a faith thing. Being a Christian is neither a Jewish nor a Gentile issue: Christians can be Jews and also non-Jews, or Gentiles. Many peoples and cultures have been christianized, or gospelized, without actually being Christian. Being Arab is an ethnic thing (although many non-Arabs have been arabized, especially through Islam and its Arabic language and culture); being Muslim is a religious faith issue.
Many Jewish believers in Yeshua/Jesus refuse to identify as being Christians. They say that they are Jews — albeit Messianic Jews. Of course Messianic and Christian are the same thing: one from a Jewish word; the other from a Greek word. Messianic is not really a noun, but Christian is. Both can be used as adjectives. Not all Jewish people who are messianic believe that Jesus/Yeshua is the Messiah and Son of God. There are various messianic Jewish movements and cults that reject the truth of Messiah being Yeshua. There are many Christians who do not really believe in Jesus for who He is, but if they say that they are Christians, the association is always connected with Jesus as the Christ and Son of God. Some say they are Christian simply to mean that they are not Muslim or Hindu, or of some other religious community. And some will say they are Christian to mean that they are not Jews. This is to confuse faith with a particular people group. I also know that many Christians can not understand how a Christian can also be a Jewish person because they associate Jewishness with a religion — Judaism — only. That, as we have seen, is not correct. It is true that I no longer practice a religion that denies that Yeshua/Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God; but I am still a Jew, and even more so now that I understand what it is to be a Jew, and not only Jew-ish.
To be a real Christian, and not just a cultural one, means that you are born-again by the Holy Spirit from Above, and truly believe that Yeshua/Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God the Father. This Jesus/Yeshua is YHVH God in the flesh, who came in order to die on the cross for our sins; He was buried, then rose again on the third day; He showed Himself alive to hundreds of Israeli Jewish people for 40 days; then He ascended back to the Father’s throne in Heaven to the glory that was His before He ever came in the flesh as our Redeemer and Savior; and this same Jesus/Yeshua will come again to judge the nations, and to restore the Kingdom of God back to Israel, and over all of the nations — and throughout the entire universe that He created and made. Our sins are forgiven and our righteousness is from God by our repentance and faith in His Son. (I may have left out something important; I may have added more than you think necessary.)
To be a Christian is not only to believe in Jesus/Yeshua, but also to be identified with Him; to follow Him and obey Him: He is the LORD! Just as the first disciples were Israeli Jews, so, too, were the first Nazarenes (natzrim, נצרים in Hebrew, which is the usual word for Christians in Judaism, mostly in a pejorative sense). The Apostle Paul was accused of being a leader of the nazarene sect, which he did not deny, but used that to describe his hope as the same as the hope through the covenant promises given to the fathers of the Jewish people and nation.
There is another [Greek] word for disciples of Yeshua/Jesus used in the New Testament, and this word is used three times. (Acts 11:26; 26:28;1Pt 4:16) The word in Greek is transliterated into English as Christianos, based on the Greek word used for Messiah — Christos. The term could possibly have been used derogatorily against the believers, but they owned it. When Paul gave his testimony to King Agrippa, the Jewish king said that Paul almost persuaded him to become a Christian. The Jewish apostle to the Jews, Peter, wrote to the Jewish believers in the diaspora not to suffer as any sort of evil doer, but if they did suffer “as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (Some translations have, “in this Name“).
The appellation of Christian to a follower of Yeshua/Jesus was applied to both Jewish and Gentile disciples. Only later, when Gentiles far out-numbered the Jewish believers, did the term Christian take on a connotation, at least in Jewish minds, of being “gentile” and not “Jewish”. But the Word of God has not changed, and the Holy Spirit knows what God wants to say to His people, that even the unbelieving among His people might humble themselves and repent of their unbelief and wrongful heart attitudes towards those who are true servants of the God who chose the Jewish people to bring praise to His holy Name. He also wants to humble us who do believe, and to deny ourselves, to pick up our cross daily, and to follow Him wherever He leads us.
Interestingly, in Isaiah, YHVH speaks to His wayward people that there would be a time that they would not prosper, but those who do believe in Him, and serve Him, would be provided for and prosper. He says that He would call His servants “by another name”. (Is 65:8-16) Before this prophecy came to pass, YHVH’s servants were called by the name of Israel/Jews. I believe that this prophecy is being fulfilled till now during these past almost 2000 years, and also looking ahead to the salvation of Israel to come. The “another name” which the God of Israel is calling His servants now is Christian — a moniker uniting both Jewish and Gentile believers as one new man in Christ/Messiah — identified with His Anointed One/Messiah/Christ. (1Pt 4:16; Ja 2:6-7) Yeshua, the Jew from the Tribe of Judah, was not Christian, nor a Christian; He is the Christ/Messiah. Yeshua is God’s netzer, the branch from Jesse’s roots, and the Son of David, and the keeper of YHVH’s covenant and testimonies. Notzri is a messianic Hebrew term from the Tanach, which was spoken by the prophets! (Is 11:1-5; Ps 25:8-10; Mt 2:19-23)
Why are we Jewish believers so loathe to be called by such a name?! It is an opportunity to explain the truth of what the term means (and what it does not), how Yeshua fulfills it, and how we also fulfill it!
I am a Jew who believes in Jesus/Yeshua. You can call me a Christian, a Messianic Jew, a traitor. I am still a Jew — and an Israeli — and, thank God, I am also a Christian: I belong to Yeshua/Jesus: I am my beloved’s, and He is mine. In Pharasaic/Talmudic/Rabbinic Judaism, He is called pejoratively, Yeshu ha-Notzri, fulfilling Mt 2:23 (in Hebrew). He is outside the camp, bearing the Father’s reproach; and we are called to go outside the camp and to identify with Him, bearing His reproach. He sends us back into our own natural camps, and sometimes to other camps, both in order to go fishing and bring other persons out to Him; and then they will do the same. May I be found worthy and faithful by the grace and mercy of my Savior, my Lord and my God, and not be ashamed when the Son of Man returns.