Jesus: The Original Deconstructionist

Jesus: The Original Deconstructionist May 28, 2024

Photo by Gift Habeshaw

In the church, the term “deconstruction” often evokes images of modern critics and thinkers challenging established norms. However, a closer examination of the New Testament reveals that Jesus might be considered one of history’s most profound deconstructionists. His approach to the religious leaders, the law, and the interpretation of scripture highlights a radical departure from the rigid, rule-based faith, urging a deeper, Spirit-led understanding of God’s heart and will.

Challenging Religious Authorities

Jesus’ interactions with the religious leaders of his day—the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes—are striking examples of deconstruction. These leaders were the custodians of religious law and tradition, often emphasizing strict adherence to rules and rituals. Jesus, however, frequently confronted and criticized their approach. For instance, in Matthew 23, He delivers a scathing rebuke to the Pharisees, calling them hypocrites for their outward piety and inward corruption. He accuses them of neglecting “the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23, NIV).

Sound like anything we see today?

Jesus sought to reveal the heart and purpose behind the law, emphasizing the Spirit rather than the letter. He exposed the religious leaders’ focus on external conformity and oppression of the “least of these” – deconstructing their authority by re-centering the conversation on love, acceptance and compassion.

Reinterpreting the Law

Jesus’ approach to the law was revolutionary. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), He frequently began His teachings with, “You have heard that it was said… But I tell you…” Jesus deconstructed traditional interpretations of the law, inviting us to move beyond the law to embrace the principles of love and grace.

For example, in Matthew 5:21-22, He expands the commandment against murder to include unjust anger, thus deepening the understanding of the law to encompass inner attitudes, not just outward actions. Similarly, He reinterprets the laws on adultery, divorce, and oaths, urging a heart-based focus that transcends rule-following.

Adherence to the Spirit

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Jesus’ deconstruction was his emphasis on the Spirit over the law. He taught that the essence of God’s commandments was love—love for God and love for neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). This profound simplification and deepening of God and our purpose, highlighted that the Spirit is relational, that our heart is trustworthy, and that it will lead us in all truth. That it all comes down to love. If we do that, all the rest falls into place.

In John 4:24, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that true worshipers will worship the Father “in spirit and in truth,” indicating a move away from location-based, ritualistic worship towards a more genuine, Spirit-led practice of faith. This teaching dismantled the established norms of His time, inviting people into a more intimate, genuine relationship with God.

The Call to Deconstruct

For those of us who have grown up in or are part of a rules-based faith, Jesus’ deconstruction is both a challenge and a call to action. Deconstruction in this context means critically examining our beliefs, practices, and traditions to rediscover the essence of faith. It involves questioning rigid interpretations and seeking the Spirit’s guidance to understand the heart of God.

This process is about peeling back layers of human interpretation and cultural accretion to reveal the core of love, justice, and mercy. It is about moving from a faith characterized by fear and conformity to one marked by freedom and transformation.

Deconstructing a rules-based faith can be daunting, as it often involves confronting deeply ingrained beliefs and facing the uncertainty of change. We also often encounter a vitriolic response from the church with words like heretic. But beloved, heretic is a compliment when we are deconstructing a false, harmful theology.

It is vital for those who seek a faith that is alive and responsive to the Spirit, to our heart. By following Jesus’ example, we discover a path that leads a deeper understanding of God, the Universe, Spirit – and a deeper love and compassion for ourselves and for others.

For extensive resources and vibrant community, just click here and connect with us.

"Yes indeed. I could not agree more. I so wish the conservative, anti-DEI, right-wing church ..."

Embracing DEI: A Call for Followers ..."
"Sad to see people twist scripture to fit destructive political propaganda."

Embracing DEI: A Call for Followers ..."
"The fact that you asked that question, after saying that you understand why we feel ..."

What is a Christian to do ..."
"The idea of Jesus deconstructing the Hebrew Scriptures or the Torah is so historically, textually, ..."

Jesus: The Original Deconstructionist

Browse Our Archives