Have you ever tried to change the mind of a stubborn person? How did it go? Do you have people in your life with whom you cannot engage in certain discussions like politics, religion, or health? When you look at our world which is divided on so many topics, does it make you lose hope in any semblance of a peaceful future? In all these examples, what is happening is we are bumping up against the propaganda of institutional powers by way of people who are over-identified with them.
This post is a hearty meal for the soul who longs for liberation, meaning and truth but whose integrity is deeply questioning the institutions (faith, government, family, marriage, business) and is struggling to find a satisfying answer. Today’s post is a sermon which examines one of Jesus’ teachings as he faced this same struggle. Can we have God without religion? Can we have politics without enemies? Can we have love without our spouse or family? Can we exist as “free agents” apart from institutional control?
Each of us will eventually find ourselves “at the end of our rope.” We may not understand the true source of our anger, but at these times we live in constant state of stress, anxiety, and hatred. You know if you are here because you feel “done” with it all. Nothing is enjoyable anymore. Everything comes with some unbearable tax to our life. Cynicism has replaced hope. “What’s next?” Who can fix this mess? Do you feel trapped?
If you feel like you can’t stay, but you have no place to go, then today’s teaching will speak truth to power and open your mind, allowing you to reframe what deep down you’ve always known. I hope you find it tremendously validating and empowering, but I warn you it won’t be easy.
Luke 16 is a chapter that hides a life key which can rescue us from our framework. We may not perceive it at first, but our pain is not with the “people” in our lives, it is with the “principality” or what I call Institutional power. Our problem is we have outgrown our frameworks, and our institutions are not leading us into liberation. We aren’t done with our political leaders, we are done with the system. We aren’t done with our spouse or family, we are done with the institution of marriage, we aren’t done with our church, mosque, or synagog, we are done with religion. If you disagree, you are not quite ready for these words. In that case, keep trying to switch characters and see if it frees you…it wont…but keep trying until you realize it wont.
Only when we are truly “done” have we reached the edges of our life (as we know it).
“The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him (Jesus). And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. ‘The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.'” (Luke 16:14-17)
In this passage Jesus is dealing with the “religious mind“ which is arguably the most lost and resistant to the teaching of God’s kingdom. Jesus is calling an “exalted” belief and practice of theirs an abomination. He is contrasting the law and the profits (Judaism) the Gospel (Good News) of the Kingdom and placing a dividing point between the two using the term méxri (until, up to, as far as). Jesus was trying to emphasize there is the old way of Institutional power and now a new way of personal liberation.
He goes on to use this term biázomai (use violence) as the “means” of entering the new way of the Gospel. He’s explaining that those most stuck (over-identified) within their institution will take the most amount of effort to leave it and enter the kingdom of “free people.” It requires “FORCE” to enter not because the kingdom is fortified, but because leaving our prison is nearly impossible once we are over-identified with it. The term “void” (v.17) means “come to an end.” Jesus is showing how hard it is to dislodge a tiny bit of the law with gospel freedom. The religious mind is not only in religion. It’s strong in the institutions of family, career, education, athletics, the arts, government, and business. Each “principality” will name us if we let it. Then once it does, we grow to hate it and our fake ID.
“For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:18-19)
If we can have God without religion, then the institution is truly the problem, not the people. The people are just doing what the institution tells them to. A prisoner to politics can only do the bidding of their beloved party or ideology. If they were free, they would never pick a team.
It’s my conclusion that the next thing Jesus says has been misinterpreted for years. When Jesus says: “…it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.” He is not advocating for rigid fidelity to the Old Testament rule and religious law- sorry all you covenantal nomists. He is saying, the way in which the religious mind pins authority to the law (over-identifies) is not the goal, that’s the abomination. Authority must be given to love or the result will be institutional fundamentalism and the religious false self (fake ID).
My thesis is proved by Jesus in the following verses.
“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16:18)
This single verse is not a side-note thrown in by the New Testament editor a random rule for marriage, it is Jesus’ example or case study of how institutional law violates the law of love and imprisons people. He is saying: “It’s easier for everything we know to disappear than it is for the smallest bit of the law to disappear from within our abominable faith….for example….look at how institutional law obscures the law of love in the case of divorce.” Jesus is NOT restating the law in order for it to be upheld, he is showing its deficiency and in doing so, he subverts the institutional powers and invites us into love.
Does Jesus support marriage? Of course, but his view of marriage is much higher than the religious mind can grasp. A marriage must be based in sacrificial love toward the other. A static agreement misses the mark by a long shot. This is why Jesus, in a similar passage in Matthew, says he has not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. The point is not that Jesus is trying to relax the law, giving divorces to all who desire them, but prove that even in our so-called fidelity to the law, we have completely missed it, because we have missed the law of love. Remaining married obscures and traps people in a far worse kind of divorce. He showing that divorce is not a legal declaration, its the loss of love, and once that is gone, the legal aspect is the lesser consideration. Thus whether they remain married or get a divorce is irrelevant, both have missed the kingdom. This is why we suffer.
It’s the institution, not the person.
This is why he said it takes violence or sincere effort to access it (Luke 16:16) and why ones righteousness has to exceed that of the pharisee (Matt 5:20) or religious mind if one is to access it. The freedom of God’s kingdom is an invitation into living according to the law of love, not the laws of our religion, state, family, or business. If we apprehend love, we keep all rules without trying. Miss love, and even the rule keeper becomes a tyrant.
Jesus shows nothing is hard than changing a religious mind. How many of us us desperately seeks institutional approval and validation? The reason we can’t leave is our livelihood and identity is derived from it. Freeing the religious mind with the gospel was the hardest mind of all to free. Remember, tax collectors and prostitutes entered the kingdom before the religious. Heathens (éthan– nations) joined God before the religious and did so apart from religion only by the law of love.
To make his point really stick, Jesus tells the parable of the chasm. I have detailed this previously so please check it out if you are not familiar with what I’ve said.
The unchanged mind remains unchanged. It will take “violence” or “sincere effort” to dislodge it.
The question for us is this: How tightly will we hold to our beliefs? What if a jacked up belief has created our prison? Nothing is harder than changing our belief, but we are never closer to making that change than when we suffer. Pain, then is a portal of grace, inviting us into liberation. If we are no longer identified with an institution, then where can we go? Who will we be? The answer is not found in another religion, but unto love. It’s not another marriage, but it into love. It’s not another country, political party, or job, its into love.
Still think the problem is the people? It’s our over identification with _______________ (fill in the blank). Perhaps Jesus is right, Heaven and Earth might just pass away before we are able to make this kind of change.
“Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)