Before I became a Christian, I spent a year reading the New Testament forward and backward. One of the many things that impressed me was that this Jesus fellow could get along with all sorts of people. . .except one. One kind of person just seemed to be in perpetual clash with him: Religious people. I have remembered and reinforced that observation many, many times over the 54 years since then.
It is still true, I believe, that religious people can’t get along with Jesus. He speaks of grace and they of judgment. He says he comes for sinners, the ones whom the religious people shun.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies . . .”
Religious people tend to have little humility, perhaps because they believe they are pretty good in God’s eyes. Do they remember that the Lord is the righteous judge of all the universe? A few religious words will no fool him into thinking we are good people.
In today’s world, it seems there are large numbers of people who call themselves Christian while cheering for politicians committed to hate and racism and self aggrandizement. They need to return to their roots, dwell for a time in the Sermon on the Mount, and become more like Jesus. It’s that simple.
The words of the prophet Amos, spoken to the religious people of Israel more than 25 centuries ago still reflect the heart of God:
The Lord says: I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Not religion but justice. Not “America first” but justice. Not “Keep the foreigners out” but justice.