For many years I have felt that our religious institutions have lost their path. In particular many Christian churches have focused less on teaching values than teaching and trying to create Christian laws - those black and white dividing lines of right and wrong. That's not what Jesus taught. That's not how Jesus taught.
Jesus taught values not law. In fact, his specific message on earth was to tell us the volume of religious laws established before him were not the path to God. He summed it up with just two laws - Love your neighbor as yourself and love God above all else.
It seems sometimes people have focused on the love God part with an extra - and God thinks like I do. In fact, it seems they love God because God justifies them. But the love your neighbor part - well - God does not love sin and you might be wearing a sin sign God can't see past so I don't either.
Jesus did not teach us to be outwardly focused in condemnation. He taught us to heal, to serve and to lift one another up. He taught us that we are all part of one tree and we all have a part to play. He taught us to be based in love as the core value. He taught us not to judge or condemn and divide but rather to reach out and to walk in the other person's shoes.
Our religious institutions should be helping us learn how to walk that path - the path Jesus taught. It requires discipline and growing our spirit to connect with our neighbor and with God. It means we have to learn to listen and to walk with our neighbor like Jesus did. We cannot understand if we refuse to hear. We cannot see if we refuse to look. And the truth is not black and white.
I have hope that we are emerging from this dark age of spiritual growth. This weekend I picked up a book called Religion Gone Astray written by a Pastor, a Rabbi and an Imam who travel the country together talking about interfaith issues. As it says in the book summary: "They identify four common problems areas of the Abrahamic faiths: EXCLUSIVITY: Staking Claim to a One and Only Truth VIOLENCE: Justifying Brutality in the Name of Faith INEQUALITY OF MEN AND WOMEN: The Partriarchal Stranglehold on Power and HOMOPHOBIA: A Denial of Legitimacy."
I believe these are truly the core issues to overcome and perhaps in that order of importance.
If we can overcome those key problem areas, we really would be doing what Jesus would do.