This is post #15 of a series entitled RELIGION OR RELATIONSHIP: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 27 podcasts and blogs that focuses a bit deeper on the first five days of what we now call Holy Week. Using the Gospel text found in Matthew 21 through 25, we explore the major differences between organized religion and true relationship with Christ. Practical sessions that give us Jesus’ view of spirituality as compared to the religiousness found in so many people today. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: “I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s Kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either. You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned. You’re hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, ‘If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that’s nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that’s serious.’ What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: ‘If you shake hands on a promise, that’s nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that’s serious?’ What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.” Matthew 23: 13-22 (MsgB)
Oh my, Jesus! Now, You’ve gone and done it!
You’ve said things here that just don’t fit in today’s society. Have You lost Your mind? This just isn’t the proper thing to say to church leaders in this seeker-sensitive, politically-correct society in which we live!
What were You thinking? These are important people! Movers and shakers of the church. Don’t You realize that You will need these religion scholars in Your corner? Don’t You know that You’ll need their favor if You intend to have any real influence in this town? It’s obvious, Jesus, that You’ve never read Dale Carnegie’s book, How To Win Friends and Influence People. Maybe I should order up a copy on Amazon Prime right now?
Maybe, just maybe, Jesus is doing and saying the right thing here?
Maybe there is a right time and a right place for gut-honest, let’s-clear-the-air truth-telling?
And maybe, just maybe, on the right occasion, it’s right to call out the fraudulence, arrogance, and misappropriation of those who have chosen to take up roles of church leadership in our midst?
You see, Jesus of Nazareth is kind-hearted, gentle and full of mercy. We see that on nearly every page of the Gospels. But on occasion, we also find that Jesus of Nazareth can be a very loud witness to God’s Truth, Justice, and Righteousness, calling out those in church leadership who are using and abusing the power and authority given to them by God for their own gain.
So, where in the midst of church leadership today are we guilty of accommodating fraudulent behavior? Where do we need to become vocal about the misuse of power and authority, where men and women in church leadership are acting more like the Pharisees and Sadducees of old instead of modeling acts of true servant leadership as Jesus displays in His day?
As I see it, we are called, in Christ, to be peace-makers, especially when it comes to building bridges of faith, hope, and love with others outside the faith. But, I also believe there is a proper time and place to call out heresy when it comes to the way we Christians can play with God’s truth on a daily basis. Sadly, there are way too many people of faith who are spending way too much time condemning the outside world, while conveniently ignoring the heresy found within the walls of our own churches.
So, as a pastor for over 30 years in the American church, I start here by saying…
My Prayer: Jesus, I hear Your harsh words and say, “Father, forgive me, for I have sinned.” Without a doubt, there have been times when I’ve acted more like the religious leaders of Your day than like You. Times when I’ve been selfish, self-centered, power-hungry, and greedy, using the authority of my leadership role for selfish gain instead of for the good of Your people. Holy Spirit, please cleanse me and purify me, for the greater glory of God. Make me holy. For Your Name’s sake. Amen.
My Questions to Ponder: In this politically-correct environment, where it’s many times off-limits to address sinful behavior of self-centered godlessness, am I guilty of holding my tongue? How can I be more like Jesus, who was at His center, a peace-maker looking for good in all things, while never denying the existence of ugly pride, arrogance, and fraudulence parading itself in church leadership?
So, what are you hearing from Jesus as we take this journey into the first 5 Days of Holy Week?
Religion or Relationship: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ.
A 27-session Lenten blog series from Matthew’s Holy Week Gospel.
Throughout the Lenten season (Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday), you and I will take a deeper look at Matthew 21-25. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use.
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!