I believe Jesus hates religion … in fact, what God accomplished through Christ brought the ultimate death blow to all our attempts (or need) to be self-righteous.  This, in a nutshell, is my understanding of “religion” – our own attempts to set things right between us and God, to create our own self-righteousness.  The belief that we could create and maintain such a thing is a grand delusion of epic proportion, it’s like self-righteousness on steroids.  Jesus said in Matthew 9:12-13 …

“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.  But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  [NASB]

“Who needs a doctor, the healthy or the sick? go figure out what the scripture means, ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’  I’m here to invite the outsiders not coddle insiders.”  [THE MESSAGE]

Jesus spoke this in response to the pharisees who voiced a problem with Jesus because He was eating and hanging out with tax collectors and sinners, with riff raff that just didn’t measure up to the pharisee’s standards.  Through the eyes of self-righteousness these just did not qualify to have any relationship with Jesus, they just should not have been worth His time.

Now, before we tear into these pharisees with guns blazing, let’s pause – we may find we are shooting at ourselves.  These pharisees saw themselves as a little more important in the kingdom.  They felt they should have their own personalized parking up front, keys to the executive suite and private dining with five star chefs (well, not exactly … but you get the picture).  They were on a level looking down on everyone else.

We can fall into this same trap because of some experience with Jesus we may have had or some revelation we may see.  If I ever believe I have a more elite status with Jesus because I speak in tongues, or because I believe and preach the finished work of the cross, or herald a radical grace message – I’ve missed the point!  Now I believe in speaking in tongues, and I believe we need to understand and see more of the finished work of redemption and I believe that we have only begun to experience the unfathomable depths of grace in Christ.  But if we are not careful, we will create a whole new order – the “pharisees of grace”, and then sit and throw rocks at our perceived enemies, … “the pharisees of law” (who we believe have been throwing rocks for years).

We must all realize that when Jesus came to us with an offer of relationship and new life through grace it was not because we were a member of the self-righteous elite, but because we were a sinner.  We were all on equal ground as sinners, no one was more a sinner than another.  We are also on equal ground in Christ, no one is more a child of God than another.  Now may we all drop our rocks because we are just too busy embracing Jesus and embracing all those He has embraced with grace … just like us!

Through the marvelous sacrifice of Jesus, an awesome gift of grace, I am a new creation in Christ, accepted in the beloved … and yet I’ve still got some pharisee between my ears and I don’t even know it.  But it has never stopped Jesus from loving me, from sharing life with me … wow!  So please be patient with me … I’m a recovering pharisee.

So what’s the hope of living life in the grace and freedom of the Spirit apart form the mindset of a pharisee?  It begins with repentance … a change of mind.  And repentance may not be what some think it is.  We will look more into this in our next Heart to Heart.

In Christ,