The occasion of the state (government) taking the life of innocent people is nothing new. History shows that government really cares very little about life and liberty. Government has its own agenda of self preservation and rewarding those who fall in line to protect it from the common person, insurrections and revolutions.
So the occurrence of an extremely innocent man with brown skin in the Middle East under occupation of an empire being put to death by the state seems to have little impact on the majority of people’s trust of the state itself. It seems whenever the people want things “fair”, the state is considered a neutral party that can facilitate that. How wrong they really are.
Consider this situation in the Middle East where the state/empire is brought a man who the religious leaders say is an insurrectionist, a revolutionary. Well the empire (in this specific case, the Roman Empire about 2000 years ago) definitely wants to minimize those people who stir up the masses and cause concern for the occupation army to be able to maintain control of this region of the empire. To defuse the public’s passion, a common move by the state is to allow the people to vote, and in this case, with their voice.
The people are offered to free one of two insurrectionists as a goodwill gesture of the occupation power in the season of Passover, the regions annual religious festival. The Roman governor, Pilate, had already indicated that Jesus’ “crime” was not worthy of death, however, the most vocal drown out the calls for justice and indicate that Barrabas (whose first name was Jesus, and his common name Barrabas means son (bar) of the father (abba)) be released and that Jesus be crucified.
What is clear is that the state did not and does not prioritize justice be served. One can never count on the state, especially an empire, to be moral or a proper arbitrator of true justice. What is worse is that in this situation, religion partnered with the state to accomplish this atrocity. What is clear is that the state and religion usually operate in very similar ways, as I said earlier:
Government has its own agenda of self preservation and rewarding those who fall in line to protect it from the common person, insurrections and revolutions.
Religion has similar DNA to the state and even empires. Do not look for justice in religion either!
So who can you trust?
I used to think that religion had the answer. The search led me through a rather complex path of mental gymnastics that focused more on a set of principles and a matrix of theological beliefs that actually distracted me from a relationship with the One who, as I found out, was especially fond of me (and you). Understanding how much one is loved releases one to explore why without a sense of urgency, without having to get everything lined up in one’s brain first, without having to know the complete truth.
One of the barriers I think that religion has had over the centuries towards unpacking who God and Jesus are is the dual mission and agenda that many organizations have in place. There are usually, at a minimum, a local building and staff that competes for the mission to make Jesus known to people. At the end of the day the local group or club, usually called a church, is very much into their own preservation, and the fact that money has been spent to establish and maintain this club has its members be protective of it and the ROI (return on investment) of the money (tithes and offerings) spent/invested to date. Many times, beyond the local is the regional or denominational aspect of the franchise network that requires more money and offers further distractions to the mission of making Jesus known.
Another aspect that usually accompanies this hierarchical organization is the propensity of titles. No matter how small there is usually always a pastor or elder or deacon or priest. The smallest clubs seem to need a holy place (house of God) and a holy man/guru.
When I was 6 or 7 and I read the New Testament books for the first time (while being bored to tears in a church service that focused on all the sins one may have committed in the past week), I was shocked to read that Jesus never established a club that had a holy place or had a holy man/guru. Those that followed him might have called him Rabbi or teacher, but at the end of the day he was essentially their friend, and in the night before Jesus’ death He confirmed that very thing (The Bible, John 15:15):
No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
Beyond this, Jesus unpacked the real relationship matrix that would support them after He would leave them, a Dad (Abba Father or Papa) who Jesus had made known to them, having the same heart as Jesus PLUS Jesus Himself as a brother and then a Helper called the Holy Spirit who would be with them day-in and day-out. Wayne Jacobson in his book ‘Beyond Sundays‘ shares the simple reality quotes in his blog post:
Any title you wear be it pastor, best-selling author, or Done [a label that indicates one is “done” with organized religion but NOT done with God] will do more to separate you from others than it will help you recognize the incredible family that Jesus is building.
Claiming a label works against his prayer that his Father would make us one. The community of the new creation levels our humanity—from hierarchy and from our narcissistic notions of being in a better group than others. We are all sons and daughters of a gracious Father and that’s all the identity we need. (Matt. 23:5-12)
But once again, we risk being divided into “innies” and “outies” and falling into the false dichotomy our flesh so craves. Whether you go to “a church” or whether you don’t is a distinction without a difference .. the church is bigger than most of us would dare to believe and that his church takes expression wherever people engage each other with his love and purpose.
For those who claim that attendance at a local congregation is mandatory to be part of his church I hope they reconsider that false idea. Being part of his family is about following him not belonging to an institution.
Exactly. As I mentioned in one of my first posts last June, the hope that Jesus and His Father together worked to accomplish between Jesus’ humble birth, his life in a normal family and three short years with fishermen and tax collectors that ended with a state execution and Jesus’ life after death was to provide hope:
.. common people were given hope not just for what happens after life ends, but how one could live their life day to day in peace and with true rest knowing they were loved exponentially by an awesome father, well beyond how the best dads on earth can possibly love their kids.
This hope can be reignited when everyday people reach out across religious, socio-economic and racial barriers .. as well as across “in-church” and “outside-of-church” barriers as noted below in Wayne Jacobson’s blog post:
Anyone who finds more identity in their institutional affiliation or lack of it, their doctrine or lack of it, their ritual or lack of it, proves by doing so that they have yet to find their identity and validation in Jesus and their relationship with him. Can you imagine what we would demonstrate to the world if we were lovers of Jesus and each other, first and only? Isn’t that what he asked of us in John 13:34-35? By that, he said, the whole world would come to know we are his followers.
I contend that between those that really have a real relationship with the Father (Papa), Brother and Helper, and those who could be on a search for that relationship could help common people across the globe have hope and peace in the midst of the storms in this world, thanks to the thirst for war the current empire has here in 2019.
When one reads of Jesus’ and His followers talk about the new kingdom, it has to be done in a context that parallel’s Jesus own time of sharing of His Father’s love. Kingdom in Jesus’ paradigm does not focus on “church”, “royalty”, “slave”, “servant” at all but that of family … with Father, Brother, Sister and Helper .. and whenever these are together, THAT is the church, anywhere.
How can one explore this new kingdom? Wayne Jacobson has another post that has some clues:
When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. (John 16:8)
Some things in life are better explored than explained such as an alpine trail lined with wildflowers, the Basilica Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the shoreline of Galilee, or even chocolate ice cream. Explanations just can’t do them justice.
Agreed? I think Wayne is one to something. All the sermons, podcasts, articles in the world is no substitute for just “getting out there” ..
The same is true of a relationship to God. It can be explained to death, literally. We quote Scriptures, memorize cute aphorisms, and read books trying to understand it. We have sought to understand him with our heads and missed the joy of discovering how God makes himself known, and how his purpose in the world is revealed each day. Many who can talk about God in eloquent terms have no idea how to live in him with grace and affection through the difficult challenges of living in a broken world. They have never explored it.
It is like perpetual ground school for a pilot. Until they fly, until they have that experience, everything is theory only and the uptake of His relationship is relegated to basically book reading and hear-say.
Perhaps the most significant proof of this, other than what I’ve observed with people, is drawn from the way Jesus lived. He walked this out very differently than we try to. For instance, he wasn’t preoccupied with a Sunday meeting or building an institution he called church. He was more interested in letting the reality of the kingdom flow through him in the encounters he had each day. It’s why he could spend an afternoon with a woman at a well, or on the hillsides above Galilee with a large crowd.
Jesus moved with spontaneity, guided by His Father’s heart in every situation. There were times He retreated to secluded places .. other times with large crowds and parties .. other times at the bar or in family homes and then times with just His close friends. He lived life each day and never said “I will teach you about this Sunday at church”.
We act as if Jesus went to church every week to sing songs and listen to a lecture. He did no such thing, and, no, that’s not what going to the synagogue was like. He didn’t tell his disciples that’s what he wanted them to do every week. As far as we know, he never organized a single meeting, except for serving the Passover in the upper room, and even that didn’t take him long.
He seemed to wake up every day and navigate the circumstances and choices of his life with an eye to his Father’s unfolding purpose in the world…
No wonder the religious elite of the day suspected Him of perverting “religion”, and when people followed Him, they themselves were very worried and partnered with the state to plot an end game.
He didn’t offer them outlines of God’s characteristics or teach them a process for letting God’s power work through them. He didn’t offer them a curriculum, he let them watch it in his own life and explore that new reality in their own. He was offering them a different way to live—in a Father’s love, in power greater than their own efforts, in the growing simplicity of learning to trust his love.
He knew you couldn’t learn those things in a classroom or from a book. Real life has to be explored, and he encouraged them to do so—to ask questions, to struggle with their own fleshly ambitions ..
Real life. That is what Jesus did with others, a life shared. A key insight into the tight bond that developed between them is summed up in an encounter with Jesus after the cross (The Bible, Like 24:13+, The Message):
That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was. .. They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.
Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”
These friends of Jesus felt in their hearts the same fire that they had experienced over the previous three years when they had given up fishing and followed Love.
In summary, what are the paths forward? I still say a clue is to go back to uncover the Jesus style:
It is evident to me now that he [Jesus] wanted them to explore the kingdom, not analyze it. He knew they could only understand it by experiencing it, not by reducing it to a set of facts or propositions. The people I know who live most freely in the kingdom are those who are discovering it, not in seminars and classes, but in the circumstances of their own lives—a woman betrayed by her husband, a man who’s lost his job because of lies told about him, a mother whose son was convicted of murder, or a child tempted to betray his conscience for the approval of his friends. I am often asked if I have a discipleship curriculum I can recommend to others, or at least a resource to help them know the Lord better.
The curriculum for your journey is not in the Bible or some workbook based on the Bible. I know this gets me labeled as a heretic by some, but the curriculum for God’s work in you is in the Spirit himself. That’s why Jesus said that he would send the Comforter and he would guide us into all truth. He didn’t say he’d send us a book to follow, because you cannot follow a book. He didn’t entrust it to religious leaders. His Spirit alone can show us how to engage God in the reality you live every day.
Following a book is not following Jesus. Wayne explains:
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m a Bible guy. All the wisdom we need is in God’s revelation of himself, but it is the Spirit that helps us make sense of his words as they fit into our experience.
I know people well-learned in the Scriptures, who can argue theology with precision, but who have no life flowing in them. And, I know people who live by their feelings, thinking their every whim is the Spirit’s direction. They both flounder because in the end, we are still interpreting our own journey, instead of learning to listen and to rely on his indwelling Spirit.
This mirrors my own experience. So much of my more religious life took each Sunday’s sermon in application on their own tangents and never or rarely brought me closer to the One who loves me.
Jesus’ own style was a “one day at a time” adventure, seeking out those around us as the Father places them on our hearts. I contend it was intended to be that simple.
Living loved means understanding how much we are loved by Him, listening to His subtle whispers and at His prompting, love others as well, sharing our experiences as we “fly” through life’s journey.
PS For an honest insight into the nature of Jesus is Gayle Irwin’s teaching, who admits that Christian’s over the centuries has distorted things about God and Jesus. This is entertaining and maybe corny but I love how this guy passionately unpacks these truths: