Why do religious types [like me] have so much trouble with Jesus?

One of the things that people often point out in the Jesus story is the way the religious elites of Jesus’ day responded to him–to his teaching, his healings, his message about God’s Kingdom. Their continual posture toward Jesus and what he was doing was one of criticism and judgment. What’s worse, they weren’t satisfied by just conducting a negative PR campaign, time and again they tried to find ways to trick and trap Jesus so they could find a reason to arrest him and have him killed.

Their main issue with Jesus? He messed up their cookie cutter world. In their mind people who were loved and accepted by God were just like them.

Clean.

Pure.

Spotless.  

And Jesus continually associates–over meals, which were actually about more than just food–with sinners [people who were ritually unclean] and tax collectors [even worse than sinners], the exact opposite of the kinds of people the religious leaders’ world view allowed them to see as loved and accepted by God.

Jesus announces and celebrates God’s kingdom as a present reality, and he does it among the last group of people you’d expect. He’s with the outcast,

the one with the rap sheet that’s a mile long,

the one who would never darken a church door because he knows the building might fall in,

the one who’s been wounded by the religion that was supposed to connect her to God,

the one who doesn’t measure up.

Jesus sits with them, eats with them, and announces to them that God is with them right where they are. That he loves them and accepts them and invites them into a new life, a new way of reconciliation, peace, joy, love, and community.

And this drives the religious leaders nuts.

See, Jesus was controversial. His message was inflammatory.

But notice who it inflamed!

It wasn’t the tax collector, sinner, or prostitute.

It was the religious, the one who was so sure of their own acceptance, and equally sure that God would never accept anyone who didn’t meet their standard.

I love how Rachel Held Evans put it on Twitter last week:

The gospel is offensive, not because of who it cuts out, but because of who it welcomes in.

This reality is clearly present in even a cursory reading of the Gospels. Jesus’ message is offensive to the religious elite because Jesus’ message is one of grace, acceptance, and inclusion.

Lots of Christians today love to talk about being offensive,

politically incorrect,

willing to ‘tell the truth’ no matter ‘who it offends’.

We’ve got all the bravado, all the swagger of those 1st century opponents of Jesus’ message. Except we have Twitter and Facebook.

Yet, if we really read the Jesus story and seek to be like him, who will we offend?

It we preach Jesus’ Kingdom message, who will most likely resist us?

Won’t it be us?

And shouldn’t that cause us to stop, to think, and to ask serious, difficult questions?

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About Joshua Scott

Josh has been a pastor at Morgantown Community Church since 2005. He is currently studying at Western Kentucky University, pursuing a Master of Arts in Religion. Josh and his wife Carla have been married since June 2005, and they have one son, Cohen. Some of his favorite things are: being a coffee snob, The Office, West Virginia football, and reading great books.

One response to “Why do religious types [like me] have so much trouble with Jesus?”

  1. Robert Mckee says :

    I have heard many religious people say that if you don’t follow the rules all your life you never get it. Even after reading a passage such as Jesus’s encounter with Zacharias, they would still hold these thoughts. I have also heard and seen it taught that suicide is the “Unforgivable sin”. Yet the Bible states clearly (Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. (Matthew 12:31-32)). If this is what is taught then how is it seen that suicide is unforgivable? Isn’t that for God to decide and not man? Why is it that anything controversial is seen as bad, yet Jesus was this way his entire life? To be like Jesus is to be controversial. Sit with the “Freaks”, eat with the “nerds”, be friends with those you would call enemies. And to share with them the reason why you do it, so that they too can understand to be this way. But to do this means standing outside of your comfort zone, but isn’t that what he calls us to do? Its amazing how religious leaders battle amongst themselves to prove one man wrong. Times have not changes since then, and I agree that it is “Us” who tries to stop us. But why do churches battle on who is right? isn’t Gods word set in stone? Why fight

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