John The Baptist...what an amazing man to look to for advise. The guy wears camel skin, eats locusts and tells it like it is. I was reading that the beginning of Matthew today, where he is basically introduced. Matthew basically says, "Here is this wandering strange weirdo, eating bizarre things, wear funky clothes, probably a little stanky...but with all the courage in the world!!" Up walk the Pharisees (which I research today, they kept all the OT laws and traditions that were passed down verbally, they put the focus on keeping the law instead of focusing on the intent of the law. They wanted everyone who was different from them to be far and separated from them. They were all classes of people.) Sadducee's (which believed that only Gen-Deut were God's word and they were usually from a line of nobility.)and John just says, "Who do you think you are??? There is no fruit in your life. You are walking around using religion to further your political agenda!!!" (these are NOT my words, although I wish they were. This is what the commentary said after every verse that I was reading...I was really shocked/excited to see this!!!) Then he proceeds to say, "You will see, the Messiah is coming, He will show you the way and hopefully you will let go of your legalism, and open your eyes so that you can see the Way he will offer you...but I, I am not even worthy to carry His sandals." Wow!!! Next things you know, Jesus is requesting John to baptize him. Quite a testament to, well, many things.
Jesus' life is such a shining example of how to achieve a fulfilling life that is pleasing to God. Often times we get caught up in feeling "better" as if we have found "the way" to heaven. Others are just misled. This is something I grew up hearing in church...the pastor would so much utter the words, "Mormon, Jehovah's witness, Darwinist or homosexual" and the whole church would roar in laughter...as if the joke were on them, because, we "Christians" found the way...har har har poor lost souls...??? What??? Show me, where does Jesus act like this. For instance, look what John says (above). He doesn't say, "You are screwed because you are a Pharisee...!!!" He says, "Hopefully you will lose the labels, you will embrace God, open your eyes and STOP BEING THE JUDGER OF SOULS!!!!" Now THIS is something that I never heard growing up. We were always the "better" followers of God, higher, more enlightened, not a "cult" because we said we were Christians. This divisive behaviour, was not attractive to me...which is why I now happily label myself as a red-letter Christian...
The words of Jesus have become a powerful tool in my life. It's funny because my family and lots of friends that I have, get (literally) offended when I bring up the words of Jesus. They say, "Well PAUL said...blah blah blah..." As if to negate the words of Christ, the one who they have named themselves after. I have to just chuckle, because when someone is talking "in their sleep" how can you expect logic."
I know I am rambling, but I do have some points. I hope that I have made a few already.
The next part that really jolted me when reading was the part about "using religion to further political agenda." Wow, aren't we there right now. I feel very strongly about my political stand point, however, I do not look down upon others if they feel differently. We have, currently, a man who says "I am a Christian man of God" leading our country. I can't judge that...I can only look at the "fruit" to use John's words, and see if his life backs that up. So lets see, Jesus says that the most important things are to care for the poor, the orphaned, the widows, love your neighbor as yourself." Ok so, bombing Iraq...I don't see up bombing ourselves, one down. The poor, the party that he is apart of leans toward, keeping our money to ourselves, not funding health care as much as is needed (or in my opinion free health care should be available to all, but that is an entirely different blog!!!), not giving to make sure that the less fortunate are taken care of...two down. And currently, rather than caring for orphans and widows, as a country, we are creating more. Three down...so far, all I can see is...well...not much. What is our president and his party for. There is the abortion issue (which just requires you saying "I'm prolife" but no movement toward actually changing anything)...which I am extremely passionate about...but I am not just anti-abortion, I am PROLIFE, all life, not just American unborn babies lives. Then there is homosexuality. I think that we get so carried away with forcing religious beliefs down the throats of people who life in American BECAUSE of religious freedom, that we often don't know how to separate "civil rights" with spiritual beliefs. Then, there is this illegal war that America is indulging in. All I can do is quote a few verse...the Bible says it, not me.
"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."
"From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things, but the unfaithful have a craving for violence."
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you"
2 things: if you want the references, ask. There are tons more...but I think I made my point.
Now to kind of tie this all together. I notice that whenever I talk about this, people, at least the people in my"circle" get ancy. The feel as if because I am saying something slightly different that, perhaps they have been taught, that I am "falling away," "being influenced by new age, secular, 'worldly' things" "becoming too liberal." Well, Jesus was a good example of liberal. And I want to be one to. He wasn't conservative in anyway...especially his love, and I would have to say, I am happy to follow his example. I want to be able to be proud of my life, of my heart, and what I believe. I don't want to have to avoid certain topics just because I'm afraid that people are going to think I'm "back-sliding" "turning away" "being tolerant." I want to be tolerant. I want to teach tolerance, love, peace, selflessness to my children. I want them to know Jesus, to defend His words and to be forever grateful for his sacrifice...
To tie it all together, John paved a way, set an example. He said it was important to lose labels (be it religious, political, racial etc.) and have your eyes open, to not remove the INTENT from the Word of God, to not exonerate ourselves, but to live like Jesus, walk like Him, view the world as He did. And that my friends...is definitely where I want to be...