With the Christmas season, known as Advent, well in the rear-view mirror of our season celebrations, we are now on the road of Lent toward Easter.
Even though crass commercialism has overshadowed the true meaning of both of these deeply meaningful Christian seasons throughout the world, I want to take a fresh look at Lent as we see a world in turmoil and our own nation terribly divided.
This road of which I write, from the cradle to the cross, is all too often ignored or interpreted by way of a distorted form faith called civil religion, a religion that takes the Bible and the cross and wraps it in the American flag.
The historical Jesus I have come to know in the New Testament would have none of this. As a matter of fact, it is exactly the reason his path led straight to the cross.
The spiritual leaders of Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, those with the most spiritual and theological certainty, were the very ones Jesus contradicted. The Pharisees were the most sure and vocal about their superior understanding of scripture, yet Jesus called them out as flat wrong.
You see, thinking and speaking outside the box was a specialty of Jesus. He broke all the rules. He associated with tax collectors, prostitutes, the outcasts and those considered unclean. He challenged social norms and turned the “church” of his day upside down.
This man, Jesus, lived and taught that love trumped religious correctness, and he taught a correct theology. Jesus’ world and culture were embedded with strong concepts as to what was good and bad, right and wrong. He turned everything upside down by providing love over rules, forgiveness over revenge and humility over power.
Through Jesus, love saved thieves, murderers, the sick, the hateful and the lost. That same love overcame societal expectations, religious traditions, cultural fears and even national laws.
As we enter this very holy and sacred season of the Christian world, why is it so hard to embrace the true message of our Christ?
Why do we turn away from him and to government leaders for our security and safety?
Violence and war are not components of the kingdom Jesus proclaimed. He believed in the vision in which swords are beaten into plowshares and bombs are defused and used as planters.
In truth, it was this message that cost him his life.
What keeps you and me, who claim to be a believer in the new way of seeing God’s kingdom and seeing our world and our fellow humankind, from living out Jesus’ example?
Could it be our political leanings, nationalism, our “biblical” and theological beliefs, our denominational or church affiliation, or just plain old pride?
My guess is that if Jesus were to return today to us, his message would be the same, and his end would be the same. The new Pharisees would lead him straight to the cross, using the government to do their evil deed.
The writer lives in Princeton. Reach him at Nedward425@nc.rr.com.