This weekend Jonah came home with a story from school. He said his teacher asked the class how things are different in middle school and what changes were to come. Some kids said silly things like “armpit hair”. When it came to Jonah he said he was going to encounter “haters” against his religion. Because he brought it up (her words) she asked him to share what his religion was. He went on to say, “I am a Christian”. As Jonah told us the story, he said, “My teacher said that’s called religious prosecution.” We laughed and corrected him, but I thought there is a thing called religious prosecution.
The religious (pious) leaders of Jesus’ day were the very men who prosecuted Him. He didn’t fit into their way of thinking. He didn’t follow their lead. He preached forgiveness and grace and unconditional love. They preached the law. And anyone who didn’t follow their ways was condemned. They used their religion to prosecute rather than inspire.
Somewhere along the way the religious leaders of the day missed the point. Being “holy” meant following a set of rules. They were the center of admiration and esteem. They would never think to reduce themselves to the level of sinners. They were better than that. They had worked hard to gain their loftiness. But this is what Jesus said…
“He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’” (Matthew 7:6 NIV)
Sometimes we can get caught up in a person’s behavior forgetting to look at the heart. We see their sin rather than their value. Our focus is on what is wrong with them and we brush them aside. Jesus didn’t do that. He dined with sinners. He walked among the outcasts. He ministered to those no one else would attend to. He didn’t use religion as a tool for hatred. Instead, He simply loved.
Help us to see others as you see them. May we look deeper than their actions and love unconditionally. And convict us Lord when we use our religion as a means to prosecute others.
- The Healing of Ten Lepers (saintlysages.wordpress.com)