Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. (NLT)
How sad it is to hear of Christians who come home from church burdened with the heavy demands being placed on them. Whether it be to fill gaps in rosters, give a bit more of time and money, or simply feeling utterly inadequate to live up to the standards preached and promoted by the leadership.
We don’t overcome this by making our faith some easy going, complacent armchair ride to heaven. We are rightly urged to be active, to be obedient, to be committed. Problems arise when such urging is not balanced by a reminder that we are accepted by God because of Jesus, not because we are super obedient or totally committed (whatever that might mean).
And more problems arise when those who are doing the urging make it harder by not practising what they preach. Jesus sees the Pharisees and scribes as examples. Encouraging people to follow Jesus does not mean angry preaching or guilt inducing counselling and conversation.
Following Jesus is demanding, but somehow not burdensome. Perhaps because such following is empowered by the Holy Spirit, not by guilty fear. And because others in the Christian community are encouraging by word and example rather than pointing accusing fingers. The blessing of faith needs to overcome the burden of mere religion.