Warning! Some of the language used in this posting may contain content you find offensive. If you are easily offended then please bail now.
I was reading in Matthew 15 this morning and I am reminded how intoxicating religion can be. I call this intoxication bullshit. I am also reminded of how DANGEROUS Jesus is and how he is calling out the bullshit from the religious establishment.
I wished I could say that things are different today, that we have somehow evolved, grown, and matured as Christians but we still pedal bullshit like its Starbucks coffee. Let’s take an honest look at what Jesus was saying here and see how it applies to each one of us today. I have a feeling that many of you were pedaled some bullshit this last weekend so let’s set our minds and hearts straight for a productive week!
To bring context to Matthew 15 we need to go back to Matthew 14 and picture the setting. Jesus just fed over 10,000 people (5,000 men, plus women and children) followed by a 5k on the water (the only one EVER done that I am aware). Him and his disciples end up at region of Gennesaret. This was on the west side of the lake and people recognized Jesus so they gathered up their sick and brought them to him.
After many of the sick were healed, we see Jesus surrounded by a large number of people. It says that Jesus had some visitors to come and monitor him (modern day NSA but much more abusive) from Jerusalem (the Washing D.C. of the religious) to keep tabs on him. They are looking for something to catch him in as to discredit him and his disciples.
Eureka!! The religious had found it! Jesus and his posse did not ceremonial wash their hands before they ate. Now for those of you that are not familiar with Jewish customs, let me give you some background here.
It was Jewish “tradition”, not LAW, to ceremonially wash their hands not for cleanliness but to religiously pay honor to God by going through this religious ritual of “washing” their hands. After this, BINGO, its chow time.
So much of religion is about perception or what others think. “Don’t drink a beer or you might lead someone astray”. The religious are most interested in what others think about them, because at the core of religiousness we see that it is about them and not God or it is about trying to please God by contrived works.
Jesus calls them out on their bullshit. He quotes a passage from Isaiah that says, “These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and in vein they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of me.” BAM! Eat that!
Jesus sets this statement up with the commandment to honor their father and mother. When I read this I had to do a little digging to find out exactly what Jesus was saying here. How were the religious not honoring their father and mother? After all, you think they would get this one commandment nailed down, right? You see in Jewish culture (very different from our consumer driven culture) you were to make sure that even as adults it was your duty to take care of your parents. They did not have Social Security or Medicare and it was the family’s job to take care of their own, including widows and orphans.
The religious had a clause that got many of their followers out of their duty by being super religious (code for super asshole) and it went like this. After you paid all your bills you could have all of left over money set aside for God. This was a way of claiming it “spent” and thus shirking your duties to take care of you parents. You killed two birds with one stone. First of all you didn’t have to take care of your responsibilities and secondly you could do it under the guise of being ultra religious. Jesus called them out on it and left their jaws gaping wide open.
So the question becomes how does this relate to today? I believe at the core of religion is the desire to gain God’s approval based on a set of standards that we fabricate (i.e. drinking alcohol) or we beat people up with biblical standards (which Jesus did not do). Jesus’ response was always trying to find a way to connect with others and by doing so bringing them into his world. This is a world of love, grace and tolerance. The only people that he really pushed on were the ultra religious (i.e. the rich young ruler, Pharisees and the morality police).
What I see today are churches and denominations that say if your not gay, a drinker, smoker or whatever their pet peeve is, THEN you can be a part of us. The religious leaders did it then and they are still doing it today. After all, we cannot have a bunch of gay people running around our churches, corrupting our children. They might get some “gay” on them. So, the church pushes out anyone that thinks differently than them. Hell, the religious even segregate their own by saying divisive things like; “If you don’t speak in tongues then you don’t have the Holy Spirit.” “If you don’t believe that once you are ‘saved’ you are ALWAYS ‘saved’.” “If you have been divorced you cannot be in church leadership”, and my all time favorite, “women should never be ‘over’ a man, so no women pastors”.
I maintain that if Jesus were to come back today and walk through Tulsa he would probably be kicked out of most churches. His willingness to connect with ANYONE and love him or her regardless is too dangerous. It is dangerous when you don’t care what others think and you do what your convictions lead you to do.
Maybe this is why I pastor the smallest church in America! So, this is a rally cry to all of you that believe that Jesus once and for all took care of sin.
This is a rally cry to get off you ass and really get in the trenches with those that are hurting. After all, I don’t think God is as impressed as you are about your consistent devotion to always being at church every time the door is open yet you buy chicken sandwiches to really put gay people in their “place”.
The world sees us for who we are and that is why they are staying away by the millions!
Till next time,