I often look around me and am reminded of a time period long, long ago. Not in my lifetime! I am talking LONG, long ago! I have only read about it. I am speaking about the time preceding Jesus’ visit to Earth. From what I read and hear, it was a pretty hectic time to be living! It seems that religion was intertwined with government and law, and the religious leaders of the time were pretty, pretty oppressive! I have even read in history books where the religious leaders created laws upon laws. I once read about a bylaw that was created that branched off of the “honor the Sabbath and keep it holy” law.
No one was allowed to do any form of work, or anything that even slightly resembled it! Apparently, the religious leaders went to great lengths to define all different forms of “work”, and made all different types of laws forbidding these actions. The specific bylaw I read about was that it was illegal to spit on the Sabbath. Ok, at first glance this doesn’t seem all that bad! I mean, spitting is a nasty habit, though I do it myself, and so it wouldn’t be so terrible to live in a place where no one was allowed to spit in public. But the reason for the law had nothing to do with manners, or sanitation. The reason for the “no spitting on the Sabbath” law was because a person was not allowed to work on the Sabbath, and spitting was seen as a form of “watering the soil”, which would in turn be cultivating crops, and you were most definitely not allowed to do that on the Sabbath. So…no spitting!
It is sad for me to read about the lengths the religious leaders went to in order to create and enforce these laws…laws based on the “word of God”. People were literally living in bondage, under the oppression of the religious leaders, by the authority of the “word of God”. I can only imagine how this must have irritated God! And we all know His response:
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” (John 1:14 – The Message)
God’s word was being misused. He was being misquoted and misrepresented. So His words had to literally become flesh; a living, walking, breathing, burping, farting, eating, sleeping, talking version of the Word. And Word, or maybe I should call Him by his other name… Jesus walked around, dwelt amongst us, and lived a life of total surrender to God the Father, but in total activism and rebellion to the oppression the religious leaders had people living under. He came to break the chains of bondage and set people free from the shackles of the law. The majority of his actions and lifestyle choices were completely and utterly in opposition to the strict oppressive ways of the religious leaders; so much that they ended up killing Him for it, because they were waiting for a different kind of “Messiah”.
Jesus loved the people that were discarded by society; the losers, the prostitutes, the thieves, the back stabbers, the hurting, the stinky, the deformed, the sick, the poor, the psychos, and the generally messed up. Every action was guided by an intense love for people, and not by “religion” or tradition. He picked wheat on the Sabbath in order to feed His disciples and got reprimanded for it. He stood up for a woman that had in fact broken the law against adultery. He trashed the temple because people were using it as a money making scheme and not for its original purpose. He did these things to show that the word of God was not meant to bind people up and enslave them. He was the Word, walking and living amongst them. And He was driven by love, not law. And He loved people. And people loved Him!
So, when I look around today I often see similarities to that time period. I don’t want to come off as too cynical and judgmental, making huge generalizations, but when I look around me I see several things. I see a bunch of hurting, needy people that don’t need more oppression and condemnation in their lives. Along with that, unfortunately, I often see the “Christian” response to those people is tradition, religion, laws, and programs with anterior motives. Like I said, I don’t want to generalize and I am not saying that this is the only thing I see! But what I do know is that love speaks all languages, is not conditional, is liberating, is not judgmental, is not oppressive, and it knows no bounds. I know that we also have the opportunity to be living, walking, breathing Word, and our actions will speak louder, and resound far more, than our actual words…no matter what our words may be. We have to stop talking so much talk and just walk for a while!