The Deeper Meaning, Or The New Least of These

My childhood I was utterly surrounded by religion. At least it felt like that, and I didn’t even go to a Christian school (something I later thanked my parents for immensely, as I’m very certain it would have totally messed me up beyond recognition).

God was quite smart in sending Jesus. When I say Jesus saved me, I don’t mean from hell’s eternal flames- I’m referring to Jesus saving me from hating religion and, inevitably, God.

At the tail end of my high school I actually sat down to hear what Jesus said in the gospels. I don’t think I actually had read them up to that point, despite attending up to three church services a week. And what saved me was how Jesus’ words struck me immediately as something so wise and so counter intuitive that they simply had to be divine.

In essence, mankind isn’t clever enough to invent someone like Jesus.

Jesus’ rebuking of religious people, the very people we’d expect to be closest to God at the holiest of all, is one such example of something I latched onto.

One of the greater trends I’ve noticed in the gospels is that Jesus stands up for the people the religious folk specifically oppress. There is a lot of momentum for the social justice side of faith – in helping the poor and the needy. And certainly Jesus mentions these people, as does the Bible as a whole. But I think Jesus asked us to care for them specifically because religious people hadn’t. He seemed to have had a heart for those left out and left behind by religion.

To me – that’s a sign when a faith really gets it – when they begin to care for those who are not like them, who in fact most say they should despise.

So in a sense I don’t think we are supposed to care for the poor because they don’t have a lot of money (though certainly that’s part of it, as I believe God wants us to take care of one another). I think we are supposed to care for the needy because they’ve been excluded, because they’ve been left behind and targeted by religious people.

Which begs the question – who, today, are we excluding and leaving behind?

Because two thousand years ago that list included, among others, the poor. Tax collectors. But that was two thousand years ago….

The most obvious one would be homosexuals. These days Jesus would very well speak out on behalf of gay people because the religion carrying his name has made them so very hated and loathed.

But why stop there?

Sex offenders?

Fat people?

White trash?

Hippies?

(Please forgive the labels)

Atheists?

Hummer drivers?

Convicted felons?

From what I can tell, there was no such thing as scum of the earth to Jesus. There was no one worthy of oppression, hatred and judgment.

The closest category of people you could argue worthy of such things would be, ironically, abusive religious people.

 

Who else would you include in the list of people Jesus would stand up for today? Do you disagree with any on my list (come on – atheists?!!)? Have i interpreted  Jesus too far – should I have simply read him literally and just fed the hungry?

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7 Responses to The Deeper Meaning, Or The New Least of These

  1. David says:

    Some great points, Charlie!

    First, Jesus took on the religious folks. Many times in the Bible we see stories of those with faith that mattered. From Noah to Ester, the Roman Centurion to Dorcas, there are vignettes of faith that were of “true religion.”

    Second, God is serious about sin. Check out the fate of Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5). These were true believers, not just folks acting like religious folks.

    Third, God has a plan for sex; it’s between a married man, and his wife. Anything else is sin. Do not interpret this as hate against homosexuals, it’s not. There are some who come to my church, and I can’t imagine what their personal struggle is like. At my last church there was a man that had a sex change to become a her. We loved Pat like anyone else in the congregation. I do know that they desire Jesus, and as brethren, I want to help them on that journey. Remember, there is plenty of sin to go around, no need to focus on this one, nor make judgments about those that engage in it.

    True religion does not condone sin, it does not shy away from it, and it does not judge anyone, nor use it against them. It loves, covers, and encourages believers in their personal relationship with Jesus. Anything else is dead religion.

    Do note that there are some who are sexuslly immoral in the church, and must be dealt with. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). The problem here is that this is an extreme case; one that should not happen until every avenue of love and reconciliation has been made available.

    I admit, there are some groups that I don’t enjoy being around, but like Jesus, it’s mostly folks that call themselves Christian and are far from Him.

    • My post was more about how religion as a whole condemns entire groups and swears off any claim they could ever have to God, and how Jesus seemed to step in for them precisely because they are excluded. It almost seems as though Jesus included them in the fold as if they were a religious brother, which is interesting (maybe I’m off there…) My post was not necessarily about overtly active sinner in the church, though that’s another post!!!!

  2. David – I haven’t had internet since I posted this, and I only have a second now to say I’ll reply later. Sorry for the delay!

  3. Chris says:

    Hi Charlie,

    Your comment “Jesus’ words struck me immediately as something so wise and so counter intuitive that they simply had to be divine.” was interesting because I think it’s really the experience of a lot of people. You gave the gospels a straightforward and fair reading and were able to come to the same conclusion that millions of other people have come to down through the centuries.
    I understand that the “religious” people were often the object of Jesus’ ire and condemnation. I also get that very religious people have in the past (as well as today) somehow gotten their hands on a magic highlighter and circled, underlined, and emphasized parts of the same book that you have read and transformed certain behaviors into the “unpardonable sin.”
    But I also think that more recently (actually not that recently), probably as a reaction to the past, some people have managed to get a hold of a magic sharpie and gone back and crossed out large sections of that same book in the areas that don’t conform to their particular vision of what God and Jesus should represent. Your comment that “there was no such thing as scum of the earth to Jesus. There was no one worthy of oppression, hatred and judgment.” suggests a couple of things. I won’t insult you by implying that you actually believe that any and all behavior, from child molesting to mass murder, is an okay thing to participate in because Jesus would be okay with it. But I am wondering if your fair reading of the text is really all that fair and if you haven’t pulled out that magic sharpie and intentionally eliminated all the parts about judgment and wrath that don’t appeal to you personally.
    There is a text in Romans 11:22 that always gives me pause. It basically says “behold, the goodness and severity of God.” I don’t pull out this verse to “prooftext” in any sense, but only to remind me that God is not just about peace, love, and happiness. He is those things, but throughout scripture, if you just put away your magic sharpie, you find this severe aspect of God as well, and the verse in Romans sums it up well. If we want to understand and know God more, which I always struggle with, then I have to fight the temptation to create a cleavage in what appears to be a fuller picture of Gods character in scripture. I have to be as careful as I can not to acquiesce to a culture that wants a totally benign God that says “all is well” when really it is not.

    Nice blog, and keep thinking these things through 😉

    • Chris,

      As you may have seen me mention a few times, I was totally without internet for a few days. So my lack of reply is not an indication of disapproval, but of a lack of Wifi!

      I can honestly say I’m willing to consider the points you raise, so much so that it directly inspired my newest blog post (coming Wednesday Oct 13). In that post I ask for feedback and opinions, so please, please take me up on it.

      Nonetheless I still want to reply to your original comment, just give me a day or two I’ve got a sick 12 week old daughter at home.

      • I definitely get where you’re coming from, and you raise valid questions. I do think that God’s love trumps all else and is above his severity. I see no limits to his grace, which people have objected to since the beginning of the Jesus movement. But that is also its power.

  4. Pingback: The Tired Old Pendulum, Or Asking For a Push | Charlie's Church of Christ

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