Is the Church a Barrier
Written by: Robert D Brinsmead
Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God. What arrived after that was the wretched Church. I say wretched Church because the Church created religion. Jesus did not come to create a new religion, but the church created what he hated and resisted.
There is nothing said about “church” in the Sayings Gospel Q. The word “Church” does not appear in the first written Gospel which is called Mark. The word “church” does not even appear in Luke or John. But it does appear in Matthew, and especially in that appalling passage, “You are Peter (Rock) and upon you I will build my Church.” Jesus said not a word about Church, and you can’t imagine that even worse word, “religion”, on his lips. Matthew represents a “Church” manipulating and using the words of Jesus, or words put into the mouth of Jesus, to create a religion to replace Judaism, a thing that would have appalled Jesus. Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God, but what arrived was the Church.
Now what is this kingdom of God that Jesus preached? He took a big carving knife to the OT, to the Torah and cut away all the extraneous religious stuff and got to the truth and kernel of it all. “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” This is it. There is nothing more. It is about grasping your life, appreciating it, treasuring the opportunities it brings with a passion. Loving life and loving yourself, and then loving others and wanting the best for others just as you want the best that life has to offer for yourself.
One of Jesus’ mentors had to be among the greatest Jews who lived since Moses. His name was Hillel. He lived 120 years and died when Jesus was a boy. He was not the only Pharisee of great repute who lived at that time. The other was Shammai. Shammai taught that only those who belonged to the elect community of Torah-keeping Jews would inherit the life to come. Hillel held a more liberal view¸ illustrated in this story of a Gentile who came to Hillel asking if he could teach him the way of the Torah while he stood on one leg. Hillel answered, “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour. The rest of the Law is only commentary.” This surely influenced Jesus to say, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you; for this is the whole of the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12).
What is this kingdom of God that Jesus came preaching? It was not about some apocalyptic event. Jesus was not an apocalyptic prophet. It was not a matter, he said, of looking for some stupendous event, for the kingdom is already present, a leaven at work, or as Thomas said, spread out on the face of the earth. The kingdom of God is just loving your neighbour as yourself.
The teaching of Jesus is about a way of living in this world. It is not focused, as it came to be in the Christian religion, on turning your back on this world and looking and living for the arrival of a better one. It is all about making the most of this world. That is the rule of God on this earth in the here and now.
One does not have to participate in the creation of a Church to promote loving your neighbour as yourself. More often than not, the Church has worked against Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom. Instead of forming a distinct body of adherents that makes some people insiders and the rest outsiders and with that, erecting all kinds of barriers between people, the kingdom of God works likes leaven in the dough of human society or as the insidious mustard weed that can annoyingly crop up anywhere. It has no marked boundaries to it, no formal membership and needs no elaborate Confession of Faith, Articles of Religious Belief. It needs no Defenders of the Faith. Anyone can learn the ethic and theology of it while standing on one leg. It does not need a Church to defend and sustain it. The Church is not the kingdom of God that Jesus preached about. The whole idea of a visible, organized religion called the Church is contrary to the whole concept of the leaven of the kingdom.