sexta-feira, 5 de dezembro de 2014

APPEARANCES AND REALITY


All those who exalt themselves will be humbled,
and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Luke 18:14 (read 18:9-14) – NIV

This parable is a picture of the Synagogue and the Church of all times. Institutional religion has not changed. "Spiritual elites" and "sinners" continue to exist. This pattern is misleading. The nature of the Kingdom is exactly the opposite by having everyone on the same level. The institutional church is proud of its exclusiveness in relation to the Divine and lives an illusory "peace with God". The true church of Jesus simply prays, "have mercy on me, a sinner."

Jesus always hammered on the keys of futility, pride and arrogance. Many of his parables are around these topics. Ironically, religion provides a fertile ground for the manifestation of the feeling of superiority and of self-righteousness. Religious leaders rarely admit their mistakes. Many think of themselves as being above the common lot. Those who have the courage to displease them are labeled as "sinful". Pointing out the mistakes of others is part of self-righteousness.

This parable which is known as "The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector" is a perfect example of this phenomenon. This story denies neither the claims of the Pharisee nor the fault of the tax collector. Despite of being fully correct, the Pharisee erred fatally by taking upon himself the role of judge. He magnified himself and condemned the tax collector. He returned home with a false sense of "peace with God" and feeling superior to the "sinner". The humble sinner was closer to the Kingdom than the arrogant self-righteous man who put himself on a level of superiority.

In true Christianity there is no hierarchy. There are not those who command and those who obey. Jesus’ church is an open family of brothers and sisters. No one is better than the other. All are equal.

What we know as "church" today is far from what Jesus lived and taught. It has largely become a "closed society of the saved." It builds temples of separation and charges admission in the form of submission to its norms and donations to the institution. Most of the contributions of its members are used to sustain the organization. Only a small portion is left over to help the needy. Most of its social projects are done by separate institutions that raise funds elsewhere, because the churches themselves consume most of the tithes for their own maintenance.

Like the Pharisees, churches create a world of separate "sacred activities" to prove their spiritual superiority, and classify everything else as "secular" or "profane". They thank God that they are better than the lost world which they reject or ignore.

The true church of Jesus is made up largely of those who are rejected by society and even by institutional religion. In the Gospels the disciples were the commonly ignored Joe’s and Jane’s of life. They were those who were lost in the crowd. It was later that the state-sponsored institutional church claimed Peter as its head and invented a hierarchical structure of power for his successors. Protestantism has largely adopted this basic pattern and only modified the titles. In the true church of Jesus there was no chief. All were sisters and brothers.

All institutions (including churches) reflect the values of the societies in which they thrive. Appearances are often valued above content. Jesus helps us to see beyond the façade and see what is on the inside so that we can make a realistic evaluation. Only by seeing our own truths can we be set free from our illusions and attain true "peace with God".

 

Luke 18:9-14 – New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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