They really, really tried.
Once folks discovered that Jesus of Nazareth was interested in love, mercy, peace and God, they attempted to make connection with him by being religious.
They couldn’t understand an itinerant minister who was so against organized theology that he hid out in the hills in the middle of the week, fellowshipping with folks, only descending to the synagogue on Saturday, to find more brothers and sisters.
Yet they tried.
First came Nicodemus, a Pharisee. He began his dialogue with Jesus by saying, “We know you are a teacher from God because you do such amazing works.”
He was a victim of church talk. He didn’t know how to chat like “real people.” He was hoping that he and Jesus could compliment one another and ruminate over the unknown questions of the universe, departing satisfied that they were both educated men.
Jesus ignored his religion and told Nicodemus that he needed to be “born again.”
It pissed the old cleric off.
On another occasion, Jesus was sitting at a well in Samaria when a woman with a history of multiple husbands, now living with a man, came to draw water. When, through conversation, she realized that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, she began a religious argument–whether the Jews or the Samaritans were right. Here she was, a totally secular woman with no real understanding of the essence of God. But once she decided she was dealing with a religious adversary, she waxed ecclesiastical.
Jesus ignored her.
He told her to go get her husband.
He told her he had living water.
He told her that where we worship is not important–it’s how we worship that rings our bells.
And we must not forget the rich young ruler, who was so confident in his financial status that he felt the only thing he lacked was assurance that he had procured eternal life. He felt certain that Jesus was the person to ask about the afterlife.
“What must I do to inherit heaven?”
After a few minutes of back and forth, Jesus told him to go out, sell everything he had and give it to the poor. This was not the answer the pious young ruler wanted. So he left, sad.
Any further study of Jesus’ interactions with religious people of his day will give you a comprehensive awareness that all of them–all of the encounters–to some degree were failures.
Because the things that religious people need to do they don’t want to do:
- Like Nicodemus, they do not want to personalize their salvation to be individually born again.
- Like the woman at the well, they want to worship but not discover the “Spirit and the truth” of their praise.
- And like the rich young ruler, they would rather memorize passages than generously give from their substance.
Whenever you bring religion to Jesus, he will challenge it–even attack it.
So do yourself a favor.
Skip the step.