Unlike so many Christians and other religious people of the present time who fixate on how they belong to God and are good Americans (insert your own nation) unlike "them out there"--whoever that "them" happens to be: undocumented workers, those preordained to eternal torment, people of enemy countries, heretics, those of other races, creeds, or ethnic backgrounds, the down and out, homeless transients, druggies, criminals, prostitutes...
Jesus was just the opposite--he spoke of how he had come to call all the "thems," all the lost. If anything, he tended to criticize the very religious us'es, the ones who outwardly look like they are good. Notice in the story of the rich young leader in Mark 10:17-22 and Luke 18:18-23 that Jesus reserves the adjective "good" for God alone. He won't accept the term for morally upright religious people or even for himself!
Jesus, the Son of Man loves the rich young leader who is so morally upright, but he is not impressed! Shock of shockers! It isn't enough for a human to keep all the 10 Commandments from his youth up!
Imagine the consternation and chaos and church splits, if the ministers at some of the mega-churches in the U.S. got up and said "Jesus is calling all rich Christians to give their money away for outreach to the countries where most people only earn less than a dollar a day, where millions of children die for want of basic clean water and food, where many don't even have one Bible to read"?
Of course, some individuals do heed Jesus' call to live sacrificially for God. The millionaire founder of Habitat for Humanity gave sacrificially of his large resources. R. G. LeTourneu the inventor of earthmoving equipment, allegedly was giving 90% of his income away by the time of his death!
Then is the meaning of the story of the rich young leader that we are "in" if we give up all our money?
No, Jesus is speaking much more broadly and much more deeply than that. He is speaking to our inner heart, our deepest motivations, our ultimate concern (to use the phrase of the theologian Paul Tillich). Until each of us gives up putting some finite thing, interest, person--including ourself--as ultimately important...and give our all to God, we are lost and have no opportunity to live in God's presence, the ultimately Good.
God the Truth and Love must come first. Even nice people fail to measure up to such Truth, even those who try and keep all the 10 Commandments.
Some of us, if not all of us, at this point may feel that this is an impossible demand of Jesus.
But it's not. Jesus says we must come to Truth like a little child comes to her loving father or mother--openly, sincerely, spontaneously, humbly... We need to realize that such little children are what God's reign is like. And we need to remember, contrary to how most religious people spend much of time putting down others different from themselves, that Jesus is not willing that any human should perish, be lost. Jesus is seeking those who are are spiritually needy.
And he emphasizes that God rejoices when even one person "changes his mind" (metanoia in Greek). This is far more important than all the seemingly nice people in the Christian churches who seem to, at least outwardly, need no repentance.
To emphasize this, Jesus tells the story of a rancher who has lost a cow and is trying to find it.(Well, that's my version since I used to work in Montana and grew up in Nebraska--the beef state;-)
To be continued
In the Light of the limitless love of God,