Friday, June 3, 2016

We shall be free

Christ came not primarily to make us happy, but to make us true. However, if you do want to be happy, He does give us an eight point program that will ensure our happiness. Perhaps, we should look at it right now.

Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Happy are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Happy are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Happy are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Happy are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

And there is maybe one more point, but people seem to have left this one out. It would be point nine.

Happy are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Perhaps this one is left till last because in the first eight points, Christ simply tells us, anyone, what to do to be happy, take all eight, or even just one, and give it a try. But in the ninth He is speaking pointedly to those who are His disciples, who do what they do because of Him.

Now that we have that issue out of the way, happiness, we’re left with truth, specifically as it applies to us. I repeat, Christ came not primarily to make us happy, but to make us true. Take this out of religious context, especially those of you who do not identify as Christians, and what’s left?

There is something terribly strange and awesome about Christ. Born under the Law and submitting to it, He behaves towards us, everyone, not just Christians, as though we’re excused from doing what He did. Most of us, believers or not, think the Law is over us. He, on the other hand, thinks the opposite.

Not long afterward Jesus was walking through some wheat fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began to pick heads of wheat and eat the grain. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to Jesus, ‘Look, it is against our Law for your disciples to do this on the Sabbath!’ Jesus answered, ‘Have you never read what David did that time when he and his men were hungry? He went into the house of God, and he and his men ate the bread offered to God, even though it was against the Law for them to eat it—only the priests were allowed to eat that bread. Or have you not read in the Law of Moses that every Sabbath the priests in the Temple actually break the Sabbath law, yet they are not guilty? I tell you that there is something here greater than the Temple. The scripture says, ‘It is mercy that I want, not sacrifices.’ If you really knew what this means, you would not condemn people who are not guilty; for the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

‘If you really knew what this means, you would not condemn people who are not guilty.’ This is where Jesus does what nobody expects. He defends and excuses lawbreakers, drawing down on Himself the charge against Him which the Jews maintain to this very day, that He was ‘the lawless one.’

But the appearance of Christ among the Jews, though intended for them, proved to be the reconciliation and liberation of all mankind from the curse. What curse is that? Being almost fated to self-destruction because of our sins, our conscious preference for our ways, not God’s. Almost fated? Well, yes, we’re not born that way.

That conscious preference for our ways, not God’s, which gets all of us in trouble all of the time, sometimes plays a trick on us. It attaches itself to holy and divine things, like the Bible, like the Church, even like Jesus Christ. We get so used to our own thinking, that we mistake it for God’s, even while quoting Him.

This is nothing new. This is what keeps people out of the Church, in fact, because the Church is full of humans just like themselves, with as many failings. All of us, believers and non-believers, have our own chosen set of rules and regulations which help us feel justified, put us on the ‘right side.’

The right side of what? For believers, it’s God. For non-believers, I don’t know, but I know enough people who are indifferent to religion and God to know that they still believe in a standard that they try to stay on the right side of. Both religious and irreligious, thus, believe in sin, but think it means breaking the rules.

Both of us—still talking about believers and non-believers—have this tendency to legislate for God, making some actions right and others wrong, dividing up the sheep from the goats in a way that is both untimely—it’s not Judgment Day yet—and mistaken. Why? Again, because sin is not about breaking rules.

It’s about not being true. This is what lies behind all of Christ’s moral teachings, though we seem to miss His point most of the time, as we follow consciously or unconsciously the example of the Pharisees. When we finally understand that God is saying to us, ‘What I want is mercy, not sacrifice,’ we shall be free.

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