July 2007

Religion, it seems, is about helping people with their day-to-day lives. Jesus, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about routine and obligation.

Jesus said to Peter ‘forget your nets, and follow me. You’re not a fisherman anymore; you have a new life.’ He said to the crippled man ‘get up and walk; you’re not a cripple anymore. You have a new life.’ He said to the prostitute ‘go, and don’t sin anymore. You’re no longer a prostitute. You have a brand new life.’ He told the rich man ‘sell everything you have, and follow me. It will be a new life.’ He told Nicodemus ‘you must be born again. You must begin a new life.’ He told his disciples ‘leave your families, go out into the world, and take nothing with you but the good news. Begin a new life.’

Paul, on the other hand, says ‘there is neither slave nor free. But, uh, slaves, respect your masters.’ He says ‘there is neither male nor female, but women submit to your husbands.’ Paul says ‘there is inner transformation (so just forget about outer transformation for a while.)’ Paul says ‘if there’s need in the community, someone can sell some of their extra [extra?] possessions to support the others.’

I don’t think Jesus ever intended to found a religion. A religion is a set of rules and guidelines that help people live the same lives they’re already living. Religion provides structure, a sense of order in a community, a sense of family and belonging. These are all good things, but I don’t think they’re what Jesus came to give us. After all, the Jews already had all this written into their religious law. And that may be the problem. Paul (and the other leaders of the early church) had too much invested in their culture, in their worldview, and in their lives. They couldn’t grasp the complete re-creation, the utterly new beginning that Jesus had in mind.

era commented:

Care to defend your def. of religion some?

Matt commented:

I'm using it in a descriptive rather than prescriptive sense. My thinking is: most people subscribe to a religion (or to any set of beliefs) because it offers them something. Sure, people want answers to the big questions, but what they really want is for someone to tell them a way to improve their lives, without having to change so much that it hurts.

This isn't any huge anthropology or anything; it's just my observation of how the vast majority of people seem to approach religion.