In the history of faith, there have been two primary and diametrically-opposed viewpoints. These viewpoints are clearly represented in the ministry Jesus' ministry. One could be called the "theological" viewpoint, focusing on rules, prohibitions and behavior. The other, the "relational" viewpoint focuses on human concerns, personal relationships and love, both between human beings and with God.
These two directly opposing viewpoints are exemplified by the contrast between Jesus’ and the Jewish leaders. So which viewpoint was Jesus'?
Hint: It WASN’T "theological!"
The Jewish leaders had a complete oppressive system of theology with numerous laws covering every aspect of Jewish life. Jesus said, "You bind on men burdens grievous to be borne, but you yourselves will not lift a finger to move them." Jesus condemned these leaders in the strongest and most emphatic terms, calling them "hypocrites," "a brood of vipers." He even accused them of "devouring widows' houses," and then going home to pray.
Let’s examine that in more detail, looking at specific incidents and teachings demonstrating the two viewpoints.
Forbade healing on the Sabbath (theological)
Forbade threshing wheat on the Sabbath (theological)
Shunned Gentiles and sinners (theological)
Refused to touch the unclean (theological)
Despised and degraded women (theological)
Held women responsible for men’s lust (theological)
Allowed a man to give property to the temple rather than supporting his parents (theological)
Despised the poor. (theological)
Considered sickness a judgment of God (theological)
Disfellowshipped a man who was healed from the synagogue (theological)
Put their faith in “Abraham is our father.” (theological)
Healed people on the Sabbath (relationships)
Said the Sabbath was made for man (relationships)
Ate and drank with “publicans and sinners.” (relationships)
Traveled with, talked with, and touched women (relationships)
Allowed an unclean woman to touch him and commended her (relationships)
Condemned the religious leaders’ distortion of the teachings of the Bible. (relationships)
Taught, “blessed are the meek” (relationships)
Taught "love your enemies." (relationships)
Allowed a sinful woman to anoint him with perfume and commended her (relationships)
Healed the sick (relationships)
Raised the dead (relationships)
Drove out the money-changers and said, “My house is a house of prayer for all people” (relationships)
Established the two greatest commandments--"Love God," and "Love your neighbor." (relationships)
Was arrested, tried, tortured and killed to save us (relationships)
Unfortunately, though, many Christians today, like the Jewish leaders, are almost exclusively focused on rules and behavior. So what is a "theological" Christians today?
--People who loudly proclaim the importance of "family values," but believe God approves of separating children from parents at the border, because it's necessary for "national security" are "theological" Christians.
--People who believe that God gave them dominion over the earth, so they can abuse it, destroy it, and profit from it, regardless of the damage they cause to the earth and people who live in it, are "theological" Christians.
--People who believe God approves of their hatred or contempt for other people merely because these people are a different race or religion are "theological" Christians.
--People who say "Amen" when the preacher says "Love your enemies," but cheer when vulnerable, persecuted asylum seekers are demonized as "rapists" and "terrorists" are "theological" Christians.
--People who believe it's righteous and moral for big business to use any means to make the greatest profit, even if the business destroys people, communities and the environment, are "theological" Christians.
--People who think that only they and people who believe like them are entitled to religious freedom are "theological" Christians
--People who make excuses for leaders who are serial adulterers, but scream that God hates gays are "theological" Christians.
--People who support and idolize an amoral, adulterous, racist, demonstrably corrupt political leader with totalitarian sympathies because he promised to "Make America Great Again," and make them a lot of money are "theological" Christians.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus' focus was almost exclusively on healing and maintaining relationships, both between human beings and between humans and God. His life and teachings clearly demonstrated that, as Paul put it, moral behavior without love and concern for other people is meaningless--a mockery--like clashing gongs and clanging cymbals." (1 Cor. 13)
In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus clearly stated the priorities of His kingdom, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’" (Matt. 25:40-46)
Those who do not also make care for others their highest priority cannot truly call themselves followers of Jesus, and will ultimately have no place in His kingdom.
The bad news is that no human being can manufacture this divine love by themselves, no matter how "righteous" their beliefs or how "moral" their behavior. The good news is that God gives the capacity to love freely to anyone who asks.