Sunday, December 16, 2012

What the religion of Jesus requires of us

What does the religion of Jesus requires us to do? For many Christians today, that is a bizarre and foreign question, because many have been taught that we are under no real obligation other than to have faith – a faith that this or that word or concept is “true” or this or that “really happened” or that this collection of books contains (or is) “God’s Word(s).” That is it. And for many, that seems enough. After all, life is too hard as it is. We’re too busy to care about anything other than a mere assent to these long-established doctrines for one hour every week. And, they might add, Jesus taught us that religion consists only of “Loving our neighbor,” right? So we’re all set if we just emote some love for those with whom we attend church at 11:00 on Sunday morning. There. We’re done. And besides, anyone who says we need to do “work” is wrong and has to be rebuked, because to try to “earn” our salvation with good works is just… wrong. Right?

The problem with all of this is that the Jesus being praised so emotionally on Sunday morning says something quite different. Not just to love our neighbor half-heartedly, but to love our neighbor (broadly defined as Everyone) and to do so JUST AS WE LOVE OURSELVES. No less than that. And even BEFORE this, we are to love God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength. All day, every day. That’s WORK, friends. Good, pure and healthy work that brings us closer to our God and to our neighbors.

But not only this, Jesus taught that God wishes us to love and pray for our ENEMIES and that we are to forgive others when they offend us – and if we don’t, we will NOT be forgiven by God when we mess up. And the only time Jesus was specifically asked, “what do I need to do to be saved?” the answer was that we must “endure to the end,” not that we must merely assent to believe something ABOUT an aspect of Jesus’ birth, death or resurrection (in fact, crying out “Master, Master/Lord, Lord” he says, is NOT enough) Jesus said we MUST obey God’s moral commandments, serve others – especially the poor – and imitate Jesus’ perfect life. Further, we will certainly be judged according to our Deeds, not our intentions or hollow professions.

To refuse to attempt any of this because we might fail (and guess what, we will indeed fall short!) or to view Jesus’ words as “optional” or simply obeying out of “gratitude,” if we feel like obeying them, is a gross misreading of Jesus’ words – which, by the way, cannot be discounted and will NEVER pass away. We are called to strive to be Servants of God and Jesus Followers – to be perfect (just as God is perfect!) and also to humbly and continually seek after God’s forgiveness, strength and guidance. That’s the Good Message of the ministry of Jesus. Let’s do that and see how it turns out!

Scriptural Notes:
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30

“The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:31

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matt. 5:44

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Mark 6:14-15

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ Mark 10:17-21

“If you would enter life, keep the commandments."  He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt. 19:17b-19

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matt 7:21-23

Mar_13:13  And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Mark 13:13 (also Matt. 10:22; Matt. 24:13)

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matt. 25:35-40

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Matt 24:35

Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.” John 21:17

“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” John 13:15

 “And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds” Luke 23:41

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matt. 16:24-25

“Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matt. 5:48

“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:17

No comments:

Post a Comment