“I am an ordained clergy person whose family has experienced abuse over and over at the hands of Christians whose hearts don’t exhibit love and grace and who appear to be unchanged by Christ’s love. All of this has created a crisis of faith.”

The expert above was taken from a comment on one of my most popular blog posts, “Religionless Christianity.” Like many of the other comments on this post, you can feel the pain inflicted by Christians on fellow Christians. Many speak of feeling judged because of their own unique encounters with God outside the church walls.

Have you ever felt the sting of being judged or seen as “less than” by a religious community? 

There is nothing more sinister than those who claim to know Christ standing in judgement of those they see as outside their tribe.  It happens in overt ways but more often in subtle ways.

I have felt this “holier than thou” attitude from religious people my entire life.  I used to think it was a curse to grow up outside the church, but I now see it as a blessing.  It is impossible for those who grew up inside the perceived “chosen” group to understand how their attitudes and actions are perceived by those on the outside.

As I continue my journey through the gospel of Luke seeking guidance for how to foster stronger communities, the path is getting clearer with each chapter.

In my last post, we joined Jesus at a party with a tax collector named Levi.  As a tax collector, Levi was shunned by the Jewish community, particularly the religious elite, but embraced by Jesus.

We pick up in chapter 5 with a multitude of confrontations with the religious leaders of the day.

  • In 5:21, they are angry at Jesus for claiming that he can forgive sins
  • In 5:30, they are complaining because Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners
  • In 5:33, they are judgmental because the disciples are not fasting and praying enough
  • In 6:2, they are angry because Jesus and his disciples were gleaning on the Sabbath
  • In 6:6, they are filled with fury because Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath

At every turn, there they are, criticizing, judging, critiquing and then in chapter 6 verse 11, the religious leaders begin to discuss “what they might do to Jesus.”

The greatest threat to the Christian movement was the religious leaders. Click To Tweet

Why did they feel so threatened by him?  Look at their arguments.  In every instance, Jesus was not complying with a scripture they had elevated to the level of law.  Do you know Christians, who have become so legalistic that they have elevated the words of scripture above the spirit of the words?  They have become so puffed up in their own knowledge that they quickly cast out, judge or condemn those who do not interpret the scriptures exactly the way they do.

For example, many of Jesus’ perceived infractions related to Sabbath keeping.  For the religious elite, this involved a complicated set of do’s and don’ts. This was a rigid law that the religious leaders prided themselves on following.

For Jesus, Sabbath keeping was more about doing good than following laws. Click To Tweet

Jesus asked them

“Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” 

I love how simple Jesus makes obedience – chose good over harm, life over death.  Forget the letter of the law and allow your heart to be transformed by the spirit of scriptures.

The spirit of Jesus’ earthly ministry was one of love and it is this spirit that is at the heart of building and sustaining life giving communities.

This post is dedicated to everyone who chooses to do what is life giving on the Sabbath and those who choose love over hate, mercy over justice, and forgiveness over condemnation.

Jesus has these words for you today,

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”

I am reminded of Jesus words found in John 8:36,

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” Click To Tweet