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?
(Please forgive the labels)
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?