once preached a sermon in one of my former churches
in which I made the statement that Jesus was a liberal.
After the service, a woman came storming through the
door where I was greeting, shaking her head. She said
angrily, "That's a terrible thing to say about
my Lord!" I had a hard time keeping a straight
face. I was tempted to say, "Why do you think they
crucified him? Certainly not because he was a conservative!"
But I controlled myself.
you ask church members, "Was Jesus a liberal or
a conservative?", many of them will immediately
say, "a conservative." Why has the church
instilled such a distorted picture of Jesus in the minds
of its members? Because if it emphasized the real nature
of Jesus' ministry, the truth would shake the church
to its roots. This is because the church is essentially
conservative while the Master it professes to serve
was a radical first century liberal. Something in that
relationship is seriously out of whack!
look at Jesus' ministry. It was a long series of encounters
with the religious authorities who objected to what
they saw as his blasphemous and sacrilegious behavior.
Mk. 2:24 - Jesus and his disciples picked grain
to eat on the Sabbath. The Pharisees told him, "It
is against our Law to do that." Jesus responded,
"The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
John 10:30 - Jesus said, "The Father and
I are one." The result was that the people wanted
to stone him for blasphemy.
Matt. 23 - He called the Pharisees hypocrites,
snakes and murderers and predicted their punishment.
Matt. 9:11-13 - Jesus ate with tax collectors
and other outcasts. When the Pharisees asked why he
did this, he said that kindness is more important than
John 8 - A woman was caught in adultery. Jesus
overruled the Law which demanded that she be stoned,
and said that God required mercy and humility in a case
Mk. 14:62 - At his trial before the Council,
Jesus was asked if he was the Messiah. He said he was,
a statement which resulted in his conviction for blasphemy.
Mark 3:5 - Jesus, on the Sabbath, healed the
man with the paralyzed hand. Because of that, the Pharisees
made plans to kill him.
Matt. 26:3-5 - The chief priests saw Jesus as
a dangerous radical who was disturbing the peace. They
thought that only his arrest and execution would prevent
are only a few of the instances when Jesus said or did
something which was a violation of the Jewish Law, behavior
which constantly put him in conflict with the religious
authorities. He was trying to free people from their
dependence on the Law, from the fiction that somehow
the Law would make them acceptable to God. He wanted
to change the coldness of legalistic religion into compassion
for people, to move beyond law to love. He kept pushing
the limits of the tradition until the guardians of that
tradition finally succeeded in killing him.
have always wondered why the church is, all too often,
more like the Pharisees than like Jesus. The church
has become the guardian of the new Law rather than the
successor to the change agent from Nazareth. The mission
of "conservatives" is to "conserve"
the old tradition rather than being open to the new
light which God is constantly shedding on our path.
tragedy is that the conservative elements in the church,
those who proclaim most loudly their devotion to Jesus
and their impatience to see him return, would likely
be the first ones in line to kill him again if he did
return. Why? Because as history's greatest change agent,
Jesus will always be a threat to the status quo, an
adversary of the Pharisees in every age.
will not have fulfilled his mission until the world
becomes the Kingdom of God on earth. And to get there
from here is going to require a lot of changing on our
John W. Sloat 2004