November 27, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 7:19-24.
“Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You are possessed! Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus answered and said to them, “I performed one work and all of you are amazed because of it. Moses gave you circumcision — not that it came from Moses bur rather from the patriarchs — and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. If a man can receive circumcision on a sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a whole person well on a sabbath? Stop judging my appearances, but judge justly.”
Jesus’ logic was always so clear. So simple that he repeatedly tripped up the scribes and Pharisees who had created a labyrinth of laws and regulations that sometimes countered one another. Instead of being faithful to God’s ten commandments, which is quite difficult, the Jews felt compelled to invent hundreds of rules over the centuries to circumvent those commandments or to part them into absurd reductions. Jesus continually tried to bring them back to an understanding of the spirit of the law and to recognize that the letter of the law separated people from God.
In this case he was accused of violating the sabbath by curing the paralytic — making him whole. Whereas, they were willing to make a male infant less whole by excising part of the foreskin of the penis on the sabbath if that was the eighth day after birth as proscribed by the scriptures. And for this the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him? (It wasn’t the common people who wanted to kill him. They didn’t know of the plans of the Jewish authorities, so they thought Jesus was paranoid.) It made no sense to him.
Do not judge by appearances or by superficialities; judge by what is right in the eyes of God not man. As John Shelby Spong writes in The Fourth Gospel, “They do not yet embrace that his meaning has little to do with religion; rather, it is about life.” The purpose of religion is to leads into a closer relationship with God by loving others as we love ourselves. Yet so often religion is focused on separating us from one another — making us many instead of one, at odds with one another instead of at peace. That’s how we use religion for our own ends instead of following God’s commands.
I often fall into the trap of judging by superficialities. I make all kinds of assumptions based on political or social affiliations, on appearances, etc. The list is endless it seems. I’m looking for reasons to separate myself from others. The funny thing is that when I make the opportunity to discover someone’s story, I find it difficult to dislike them. There is much more in our life experiences to unite us than to separate us once I get beneath the superficialities. When I try to find answers to the question, “Who are you?”, I discover the divine, I discover God. I find that spirit that connects us all and the need to judge, to separate, melts away.
I think that’s what Jesus is trying to teach me. Go beyond appearances, beyond labels, beyond those superficialities that separate me from any other person. And deep inside of them and me I will find God who binds us all together in His spirit of love. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with your family and friends. Let’s each of us take some time to go beyond superficialities and find God in one another.