By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
After 2,000 years of promoting Christianity as the one true faith, the church needs to revive the universal teachings of Jesus and promote the common good with the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors, including our neighbors of other races and religions, as we love ourselves. It’s a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Jesus was a maverick Jewish rabbi who never taught that God favored one religion over others, or that he was divine. He emphasized simplicity and humility, saying that “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”, and that salvation comes when we serve the least of those among us. (Matthew 18:3-4; 25:31-46).
Jesus never indicated that he was born of a virgin or was the alter ego of God in the Holy Trinity. Jesus called his disciples to follow him, not to worship him (Matthew 4:19), and he condemned sanctimonious and hypocritical religious leaders who lacked humility and promoted themselves as “a brood of vipers” (Matthew 23).
Jesus was a prophet in the Jewish tradition whose teachings often included hyperbole. Turning the other cheek to avoid exacerbating violence, plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand to avoid temptation, or giving all one had to any who asked for assistance, were all exaggerations that should not be taken literally included in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus put love over law when he debunked Jewish dietary laws as standards for moral purity or virtue, teaching that our vices come from our hearts, not our stomachs: “...Out of men’s hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” (Mark 7:20-22)
Jesus also disobeyed Jewish laws that prohibited good works on the Sabbath, saying “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Jesus asked, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4) He called sinners, not the righteous (Mark 2:15-17), and taught that all who did God’s will were his brothers and sisters in the universal family of God. (Mark 3:31-35)
The story of the rich man seeking salvation in Mark 10:17-27 illustrates the danger of loving riches. Jesus loved the rich man and told him to give his wealth to the poor and follow him, but the rich man turned and sadly walked away. Perhaps he felt that God had rewarded him with his wealth, since he had told Jesus that he had been obedient to Jewish law.
Jesus advocated love for those of other races and religions, even our adversaries. He put love over law, emphasizing humble service and sharing our wealth with the needy. Jesus promoted the common good, but it ultimately led to the cross; 2,000 years later, greed and the lust for power continue to corrupt the church and politics. Can the universal teachings of Jesus to promote the common good save the church and our democracy from their demise?
On The Greatest Commandment: A Common Word of Faith, see
On Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Love Over Law and Social Justice
On The Arrogance of Power, Humility and a Politics of Reconciliation, see
On Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Virtues and Vices of Christian Morality, see
On Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Justice in Religion and Politics, see
On Musings on Promoting the Common Good as Essential for Political Legitimacy, see
On Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Universal and Altruistic Jesus, see