Freedom

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.  They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they will not move them with one of their fingers.  But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.  They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’  But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ,and you are all brethren.  Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.  And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ” (Mathew 23: 1-10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus spoke of the religious leaders saying, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”  In the Old Testament, God commanded that anyone who passed by a donkey that was straining under the weight of a heavy load was required to take some of that burden off of the donkey’s shoulders and carry it themselves.  God gave Ten Commandments and a number of simple rules by which to live; yet no man was able to completely obey them.  Despite man’s obvious failure, the Pharisees added hundreds of additional rules to the already heavy load.  For instance, God commanded his people to observe the Sabbath day (a day on which no one was allowed to work.)  However, God did not intricately define what constituted work; so the religious leaders decided to do it for Him; they created 39 different categories of work related laws; every distinct category consisted of a long list of prohibitions.  Many regulations were ridiculous; for example they outlawed writing, the tying and the untying of a knot, and the kindling and extinguishing of a fire.  (Carrying anything was also prohibited; when Jesus healed a paralyzed man on the Sabbath, he told him to take up his mat mat and go home.  As the man walked through the crowds, the religious leaders saw him carrying his mat and absurdly accused him of breaking the Sabbath laws.)  Because the Pharisees made following God more difficult, many became resentful; those who needed God the most were being pushed even farther away from Him.  Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus came to help carry mankind’s burdens; not add to them. 

                In 570 A.D., a man named Mohamed was born in the city of Mecca (located in modern day Saudi Arabia.)  As an adult he started a religion known as Islam; a religion that exchanged the grace of God with man-made rules and regulations; to Mohamed, salvation was a wage that could be earned (rather than a free gift of God.)  No one can achieve righteousness through obedience to the law.  Instead, only the blood of Christ can make a man truly clean.  Not only did Mohammed reinstitute many of the Old Testament laws, he also added over 3000 additional ordinances to them.  For example, he said, one should ‘only eat with the right hand, with three fingers.’  A man was not allowed to eat an animal if he had killed it with a rock; water had to be snorted every day to keep the nose clean (free of evil spirits); all Muslims were required to wash their hands first thing in the morning; no one was permitted to enter a house through the back door; people were instructed to wipe off the bed at least three times before getting in to it; followers were to sleep on their right side with their right hand under their right cheek, and their knees slightly bent; a man could only use his left hand while urinating; if a dog drank from a dish, it had to be washed at least seven times; dogs were considered unclean and were therefore not to be owned as household pets; no one was permitted to drink out of a green jar or to eat garlic; women, dogs, and monkeys were not allowed to pass in front of a person praying (or their prayers would be nullified.)  Muslims were also commanded to pray five times a day, and to fast one month out of the year.

                Today many are straining under the burden of Islamic law; whole nations are in bondage and slavery to man-made rules and regulations.  The common man suffers, while the religious leaders reap the rewards of unholy power and prestige.  Empty outward obedience is in no way pleasing to God; instead, He desires inward faith in His only Son, Jesus Christ (in turn, acts of obedience are pleasing to Him.)  Jesus came to relieve man of the heavy burdens of religious rhetoric.  He simplified the law, saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All of the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Love for God and others is the new law; the law of liberty; the law of simplicity; the law of sincerity.  When we love others, we obey God.  As you go about your day, love your fellows with a genuine heart; serve them unconditionally; comfort those who are hurting; give to those in need; reach out to the lost; be a light in the lives of all those you meet, and Christ will be your companion; he will carry your burdens and relieve your sorrows; and “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (note of caution:  God’s laws are still beneficial; Jesus did not come to abolish them entirely.)

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today, and we lift You up; You are an awesome and amazing God; full of truth, and love and mercy.  Lord, please deliver those who are struggling under the burdens of religious oppression.  Set them free Father, and provide them with the knowledge of Your grace and mercy; may they come to know and love Your Son.  Lord, if we are carrying any unnecessary burdens, we give them to You now; take them from us; relieve us of our afflictions, that we might know what it means to truly be free.  We love You Father, we thank You, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”

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