STUDY NOTES FOR 1/21 (last week's here)
Jesus cleansed the Temple as a dramatic act of defiance against the abusive and oppressive legalistic religion that left out marginal and undesirable people. Mark 11:17: "Jesus began to teach and say to them, "Is it not written (Isaiah 56:7), 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, But you have made it a robbers' den. "
Throughout the ministry of Jesus, his actions were consistently aimed at including the people that religion had left out. Jesus included women, children, foreigners, sinners, the "unclean", outcasts, the sick and even outlaws and murderers (thief on the cross) at a time when the basic thrust of religion was to divide people into "insiders" and "outsiders", the clean and the unclean. Not much has changed!
Big religion often protects and defends the past long after the past has become a source of prejudice and a distortion of the present. Jesus constantly confronted entrenched abusive religion and exposed its damage to people and its distraction from God. Jesus did not just point out the flaws in current religion, however, he offered a better way: himself. Jesus changed the world by first accepting and being himself. When Jesus says, "Follow me," he is inviting you first of all to accept and be yourself just as he did.
Religion draws a line and forbids you to cross it. Jesus teaches you to think for yourself, respect yourself and draw your own lines that fit you.
What is the role of love in how you are changing yourself and changing your world? In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes spiritual gifts and the kind of small groups that develop in the Spirit of Jesus. Then he concludes by saying, "Earnestly desire the greater spiritual gifts, but I show a still more excellent way." Then follows the great declaration of the meaning of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Stop now and read these two chapters and ask how they can help you to find better ways to change your world.