I’ve found it a useful exercise this Lent to look at the characters and groups who resisted Jesus and eventually killed him. It is easy to become like a member of one of those groups, as there is nothing new under the sun, and being aware of the faults of those who first resisted Jesus the first step to avoid being like them. Yesterday I looked at the temple traders. Today it’s the turn of the chief priests and scribes. This is perhaps the group I am most likely to fall into, being the vicar of a church:
2. Religious power brokers (chief priests and scribes).
This group seeks to control religion according to their own dearly held set of traditions and customs. The chief priests and scribes formed a zealous sectarian movement and the message these guys gave off was clear. We’ve got the right way of doing religion so behave like us or God will condemn you.
Christ took these guys head on and told them that it is not what we do for God but what we’ve seen and believe which makes people acceptable to him. If anyone sees Christ for who he is and what he’s done on the cross for our sins and believes in him, then that person is declared acceptable to God by God. Anything we do at church must, therefore, draw people to the cross and emphasise Christ. Our own corporate behaviour and happy traditions must not get in the way. Our cultural religious traditions must be easily changed.
The church of Christ is not a homogeneous club of people who all look and behave like each other, or who subscribe to a set of cultural traditions or ceremonial regulations, like the chief priests and scribes of Jesus’ day. In a multicultural society the only way to ensure our cultural assumptions are not obstacles to people coming to Christ is to make church reflect the cultures of the people who come. This is easier said than done but is necessary if Jesus as Lord and Saviour is to be lifted above the noise of religious culture.