Jesus was really hard on “religious” people. For him, this was mainly aimed at those who were entrenched and loyal more to the rules and ways of their faith traditions than to loving God and loving people. He watched as religion became just another form of oppression for so many. Burdened by heavy loads of trying to live a good life, many walked away, or never came to faith in the first place.
This is remarkably “fresh” for today. Much of evangelicalism has become fixated on rules, political issues and cozying up to power. Much of progressive Christianity has become fixated on justice, sexuality and inclusion. Both of these seem to me to be ripe targets for the toughest words of Jesus in Matthew 23:4: “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.”
People see religion being used as a tool. A weapon even. Jesus calls us to something so much freer, truer and more beautiful.
What might “easing the burden” look like? Perhaps instead of starting with issues and behavior at all, we start with love? What if we practice what Jesus modeled – loving those who others have said aren’t worthy of our love? What if we worship the living God by spending significant daily time in His presence – in prayer, scripture, song and meditation – and allow Him to transform us every day? What if, when we see someone in need today, we don’t “pass by” like the religious leaders in the story of the good Samaritan but instead, stop to help and offer care that puts them on the road to recovery?
I don’t ever want to be so religious that I miss God. May our lives this week be focused on His loving kindness toward us, our freedom in Jesus, and our call to love one another.
Grace and Peace,