Follow Jesus, Not the Church

Follow Jesus, Not the Church August 3, 2022

Jesus was a progressive thinker and believed in adapting to the times. Unfortunately, many churches and followers of Jesus tend to overlook this crucial aspect which once defined Christianity, thus strangling its very spirit.

Is it a wonder then that an interfaith dating couple should find it easier to follow Jesus than the church?

Hurting others in the name of God is wrong. (Photo: François Dubois/Wikimedia)

Jesus as a progressive thinker

The Second Commandment[I] in the Old Testament carries stern warnings against praying to ‘other’ gods and thus inviting the wrath of Jehovah, a quick-tempered and jealous God.[ii] For, by doing so, it admonishes, several generations down the line will be condemned to perdition. In contrast, Jesus’s message of compassion and brotherhood turns things around, and a new interpretation of the Second Commandment emerges: “love thy neighbor.”[iii] How beautiful!

Similarly, in another passage in the Old Testament,  to deal with the enemies, the LORD showed no mercy as he commanded, “Now go and attack Amalek, and destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.[iv] Jesus, however, had a message, which was quite the exact opposite, “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.[v]

Through these examples, we can very well see that Jesus was an inclusivist and accepted Jews and Gentiles alike.

Jesus was not dogmatic, and helped people break free from laws which had lost their relevance. For example,

  • There was an old tradition of not doing any work on the Sabbath day.[vi] Jesus clarified that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath.[vii]
  • Similarly, regarding the tradition of washing hands before eating bread, Jesus said it is more important to be a good human being than to strictly follow certain traditions.[viii]
  • God asked to make a covenant to circumcise all males.[ix] Jesus explained that circumcision was of no avail.[x]
  • It was said that God loved burned animal offerings and animal sacrifices.[xi] Jesus clarified “…to love one’s neighbor as oneself is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.[xii]

It is clear that Jesus was a reformist who was more interested in one’s karma than in extraneous dogmas.

Jesus and the church

Jesus himself never used the words “idol gods” or “other gods.” His teachings were more about being a good human being than criticizing “other” gods, as done at other places in the Bible and the way it is done in some church sermons.[xiii]

Regarding tolerance to others, many churches teach that Jews, Muslims and the non-baptized Mahatma Gandhi will not be saved. This certainly is not in line with the inclusivist and tolerant message that Jesus imparted unto humanity.

The famous aphorism from Jesus reads, “Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him.[xiv] As someone who came to represent the very spirit of forgiveness and love, Jesus would have never endorsed the Christian crusades where millions of innocent people were killed in His name.

How is it logical that killing millions of people is not a sin, yet an innocent baby is born, lugging along a whole bundle of sins with it, which can be cleansed only with baptism?

On the matter of baptism, John the Baptist baptized Jesus[xv] but Jesus never baptized anyone.[xvi]

It is interesting to note that a Catholic Church will insist on re-baptism of the already baptized Mormons or Protestant Christians (and vice versa). It may be that over the years baptism has been reduced to a mere exclusivist ceremony, and it is no longer a question of embracing Jesus as it is of espousing the church.

It makes one wonder if the leaders of today’s churches are progressive thinkers who believe in adapting to the times, as Jesus was. Or are they simply clinging to the form, letting its divine essence, with radical reforms at its core, calcify?

Applications to Interfaith Dating Couples:

For an interfaith marriage, the church will insist on baptism of the intended spouse and/or ask to sign a prenuptial agreement to raise children in the Christian faith only. (Read some 300 real life experiences here)

If a couple were looking for an interfaith marriage with equality, it would be easier to follow the teachings of Jesus instead of the church.

So, if it is Jesus, who is the cornerstone of your spiritual life, feel free to have a Christmas tree in your home and follow his pluralistic message. And, in line with Jesus’s inclusive teachings, also respect your spouse’s faith and celebrate ALL holidays.

However, there were some concerning statements made by Jesus that need to be evaluated in its context. For example, Jesus said, “Who is not with me is against me,[xvii]  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”[xviii]  and “No one comes to the Father except through Me.[xix]

If you wish to have insurance against a potential religious fanatic, do not agree to baptize (or any religious label) the children. It is best to let an interfaith child decide his or her own faith as an adult—that is progressive thinking.

REFERENCES

[i] God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai (around the year 1593 BC). The Second commandment states, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God… punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.” (Exodus 20:4-5)

[ii] God is described as a “Jealous God” 31 times, as an “Angry God” 238 times and “fear” word is used 455 times in the Bible, many of these citations are by God Himself.

[iii] “And the Second (commandment) is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) “There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)

[iv] Samuel 15:3

[v] Matthew 5:44

[vi] And LORD God spoke to Moses, saying: “Tell the people of Israel to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between Me and you forever. It helps you to remember that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. Yes, keep the Sabbath day, for it is holy. Anyone who desecrates it must die; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community. Work six days only, but the seventh day must be a day of total rest. I repeat: Because the LORD considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.” (Exodus 31:12-15)

[vii] Matthew 12:12; Jesus said: “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?” (Matthew 12:11) “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

[viii] Not washing their hands when they eat bread is not that important as to transgress the commandment of God. “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:2-3) “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” (Matthew 15:19-20)

[ix] “There is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you and your descendants after you. Every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you,” God commands Abraham (Genesis 17:10-11), the Jewish patriarch. “Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” (Genesis 16:14)

[x] “For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” (Romans 2:25-29)

[xi] Leviticus 6:25; I Kings 8:63; II Chronicles 7:5, II Chronicles 15:11-12, II Chronicles 29:32-33, Psalms 66:15, Ezekiel 43:19-25.

[xii] Mark 12:33

[xiii] Currently, no major Christian church holds pluralist theology (each person is saved by his or her own religion, independent of Christ) or liberal concept of salvation.

[xiv] Matthew 5:39

[xv] Matthew 3:13

[xvi] Father Kenneth Doyle: “The synoptic writers—Matthew, Mark and Luke—offer no clarity on this, because they are silent on the question of Jesus baptizing.”

The author here in this article focused on Jesus’ direct messages (in Matthew, Mark and Luke) but acknowledges John’s (3:22) message, “After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and was baptized.”

[xvii] Matthews 12:30

[xviii] Matthew 10:34; also Luke 12:51

[xix] John 14:6

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This information is prepared exclusively to help an interfaith dating couple. For a happy and everlasting interfaith married life, it is highly recommended to keep ALL intolerant religious institutions out of your married life. Where necessary, the couple should interpret scriptures on their own and as and how it fits with their needs.

If following the scripture is vital to one partner, then it is better to marry within one’s own faith and denomination, unless the objective of getting into an interfaith relationship was love-proselytism.

About Dr. Dilip Amin
Dr. Dilip Amin is a Director of the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition of the San Francisco Bay area and a certified speaker at Islamic Networks Group. He is a Dharma Ambassador and on the Advisory Committee at the Hindu American Foundation. He is a jail chaplain. Dr. Amin has co-authored the book Hindu Vivaha Samskara. He founded the web forum InterfaithShaadi.org and guided 1200 youths and summarized his experiences in the book--Interfaith Marriage: Share & Respect with Equality. He is also the founder of HinduSpeakers.org. You can read more about the author here.

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