Even in an atmosphere of tolerance, new ideas do not rest well.
Though my personal faith has undergone substantial change, it has always sought to follow the pattern and purpose described by the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.
Called “The Christ” – the anointed, chosen, child of God, he constantly directed those who would listen, to honour God and forget themselves. He is said to have ‘commanded’ his followers to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
But what is a disciple?
We have – in the last two thousand years or so, decided that disciple means someone taught to behave as we behave – we have set up new schools of thought to train such people (called them churches), and concluded that since Jesus invited us to go into all the world, that the world (whatever that might look like) was to be subservient to the message that we carried. But ours is not Jesus’ message.
Jesus invited curiosity in the plans of God. Jesus addressed God in intimate terms, and invited us to do likewise. Jesus saw everywhere evidence of God’s grace and goodness – and in everyone he found faint remnant of that perfect pattern of creation. (Genesis 1:27)
Jesus knew very well his own religious heritage. Indeed, we can assume that he treasured the traditions of his youth, and followed them into adulthood. He also saw and experienced enough human manipulation of the things of God to be indignant about it, and clearly knew that some rules of his faith tradition were better broken.
Jesus can be read as someone who is tolerant of religious diversity – concerned more that worship be focused on God (whom he viewed much differently that his peers) – and so when some Greeks come to “see” him, he advises his followers that they must abandon their old ideas about observance – indeed those ideas must die.
Not because they are bad, but because that is the nature of creation. All new growth is nurtured by the death of the old. A forest re-seeds itself after a fire – stalks of grain produce more than they need, not because they have foresight, but because that is their purpose; to live productively and die productively. To leave behind a remnant that might continue. But that which continues, though it has the same shape – the same purpose – the same DNA – is not the same. It is and will always be a copy, following a pattern – even as it finds its own way.