“He came to his own, and his own did not receive him. But to all who received him he gave them the right to become children of God, to those who believe in his name” (John 1: 11-12).
Have you ever thought about why Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders of his day? He didn’t live up to their expectations, He didn’t share their prejudices, He hung out with the wrong crowd. He seemed to be breaking all their laws. God’s people were looking for a warrior king to fight their enemies, but Jesus came as the Prince of Peace. They were looking for a day of vengeance and missed the glorious appearance of the virgin child. Jesus came as one of us, and he had compassion. It wasn’t what they expected.
Jesus touched the untouchables. He embraced lepers, the unclean ceremonies, he called women to be his disciples. He was the friend of tax collectors and sinners. Not only that, but he got close to the people who were rejected by society, and it was his willingness to get closer to the people the Pharisees feared the most.
To the religious leaders of his day, Jesus would have appeared to be a heretic. Jesus challenged their conception of religion, status and privilege. The liberation He offered was an existential threat. They came from the seed of Abraham. They thought they were initiates. They thought they were saved because they were Jews. But Jesus said, Abraham was not their father – their father was the devil. He told Nicodemus that his Jewish identity was not sufficient. He had to be born again.
Being a rich, healthy, and religious Jew had no bearing on salvation. The religion of Christ has brought liberation to every tribe, language, nation and people. It wasn’t about being male or female, Jew or Gentile, all were one under Christ.
But when you’re used to privilege, equality looks like oppression. Religious leaders believed that embracing âothersâ would lead to contamination and loss of religious purity, but Jesus did not share this mindset. So He was despised and rejected by religious men.
In his book What jesus meant, author and historian Garry Wills says, âThe most striking, felt and dangerous activity of Jesus was his opposition to religion, relevant to his day. This is what led to his death. Religion killed him.
Religion killed Christ. Or, I might add, religion has teamed up with power-based politics. History shows that when religious and political institutions come together for a cause, it often involves violence, war and death.
There is a rise in Christian nationalism all over the world. He must be confronted because he seeks political power in religious disguise. He can claim to represent Christ, but he’s against everything Jesus was for.
True religious freedom protects the atheist as much as the believer. He speaks out against the oppression of a homosexual person, just as he would speak out against the oppression of a heterosexual person. She is committed to the ideal that all men and women are created equal.
So beware of political and religious figures who invoke the name of God but curse minorities and vulnerable people with their actions. Beware of people who run national days of prayer but who are actually hypocrites. Jesus called these leaders serpents (Matthew 23).
You cannot be both a Christian and a nationalist. Christianity cannot be put in a box based on privilege, exclusion and prejudice. Christian nationalism is not about protecting the rights of the other, it is about self-preservation. In this way, he is anti-Christ.
Christ was rejected the first time he came to his own people. How will it be the second time around? If you have been rejected by religious, rest assured, Jesus was also rejected.
When religious people distort Christ, they place heavy burdens on people.
âFor they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens that are difficult to carry and put them on the shoulders of the people, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with their fingers â(Matthew 23: 3-4).
Bad religion is worse than no religion. Where bad religion is exclusive, Jesus is inclusive. Where bad religion restricts, Jesus frees. He said, âCome to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light â(Matthew 11: 28-30).