Inside Looking Out

Imagine having all the air sucked out of the room and then replaced with . . . something else.

That’s pretty much what Jesus did.

He blew away the religious conventions of the day by taking long-established beliefs and challenging the entire attitude behind them.

The ancient Hebrew culture was one of tribal alliances united under the leadership of God. It all worked well in that time and place. The religious culture was so interwoven with daily life that there was virtually no distinction.

But down the road, Jewish sects were formed. People started arguing about tradition and rules and forms of religion. The Pharisees were righteous in their own eyes, and then Jesus came along and declared that He was the fulfillment of all the law. Boy, did that threaten their stability!

The Sadducees weren’t much better. They still thought they were right and everyone else was wrong. And don’t even mention the Samaritans, the half-breed cousins of the Hebrew children. They were nothing but dogs to the Judeans. Oy vey, such a mess!

But what about modern religious culture?  drawing of church

I recently read this passage with new eyes: “For he who is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:40 NASB). The disciples had come to Jesus complaining that someone who was not affiliated with them was casting out demons in the name of Jesus. The disciples told him to stop because he was not one of their own. Jesus responded, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in my name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me.” (Mark 9:39 NASB).

Have you ever been judged for belonging to the “wrong” kind of church? As a young teen, I invited a friend to visit my church. She refused, saying it would be a sin for her to come. By the way, my church was Pentecostal, hers was Roman Catholic. Some of the old rules have since changed, but back then I was stunned at my friend’s reason. Weren’t we all believers in Jesus?

That experience makes me grateful for Vatican II and for popes like John Paul II and Francis who tend to emphasize the teachings of Jesus more than those of religious tradition.

I agree there are churches that claim to be Christian but follow unscriptural precepts devised by man. But casting such a wide net that every person in that group is caught in it and judged? That’s just not right. God’s grace can and does reach individual hearts and teaches them the truth. I have a wonderful Catholic friend who is one of the strongest believers I know. His understanding of grace and mercy would put many fundamentalists to shame.

cross in hands

Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutheran—I know believers in all groups who have a true heart for the Lord and who follow His leading openly, faithfully, and with joy.

It’s all about Jesus.

If it isn’t, it should be.




This is part 1 of a 3 part series

Part 2| Outside Looking In

All illustrations courtesy of