The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Jesus the anti-religious [Scriptures for Sunday, 9-3-06]

with 2 comments

Think of a thing that is inherently, absolutely evil. A thing, now. Something tangible.

Now think of one that’s inherently, absolutely, always good. And hold that thought.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day wanted God’s blessing. The way they saw it, if they could only get everybody to behave, God would be pleased and would bless their land and toss out their Roman oppressors.

Then Jesus came along – identifying himself as God in-the-flesh – and didn’t keep the very rules that they thought brought down God’s blessing. Through their grid, Jesus looked woefully unspiritual. “And if people follow him,” they might reason, “God will never bless our land.”
Watch it unfold:

Mark 7:1-8

The Source of Your Pollution

The Pharisees, along with some religion scholars who had come from Jerusalem, gathered around him. They noticed that some of his disciples weren’t being careful with ritual washings before meals. The Pharisees—Jews in general, in fact—would never eat a meal without going through the motions of a ritual hand-washing, with an especially vigorous scrubbing if they had just come from the market (to say nothing of the scourings they’d give jugs and pots and pans).

The Pharisees and religion scholars asked, “Why do your disciples flout the rules, showing up at meals without washing their hands?”

Jesus answered, “Isaiah was right about frauds like you, hit the bull’s-eye in fact:

These people make a big show of saying the right thing,

but their heart isn’t in it.

They act like they are worshiping me,

but they don’t mean it.

They just use me as a cover

for teaching whatever suits their fancy,

Ditching God’s command

and taking up the latest fads.”

Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Listen now, all of you— take this to heart. It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life; it’s what you vomit—that’s the real pollution.”

He went on: “It’s what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness—all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution.”

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

They would have put ceremonial hand-washing on the list of things that were always good; not doing so, always bad.

Jesus, apparently, didn’t care much about it one way or the other! Founding a religion was not, apparently, part of his agenda. It’s as if he says “How do you get hung up on this stuff? It’s nothing like what I want for you.”

What he wants is for us – for me – to become like him on the inside. He assumes the outside will follow along, in time. Religion, by contrast, works from the outside in.
James describes what Jesus’ way might look like:

James 1:17-27

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

Act on What You Hear

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.

Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Now, then: What’s bad? What’s good? What matters?

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2 Responses

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  1. Ooh, thanks, you made my day!!


    August 29, 2006 at 7:16 pm

  2. Dang, Monte, you sure know how to hit the nail on the head. Your writing is so clear and questioning. Keep getting right down to what really matters!


    August 29, 2006 at 5:38 am

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