For his love of God and people, Jesus had to endure constant criticism from people who were officially authorized to speak in the name of religion. This resulted from the contrasting understanding of what religion is meant to be and to do. For the religious leaders of his time, Jesus was an embodiment of all that was wrong, when it came to understanding religion, and living it.
Religion and religious practices are only a means to experiencing God, not an end in itself. Jesus knew that; because his commitment to God came from his personal experience of God, who was guiding him in the ways of compassion and forgiveness.
For the religious leaders, religion was an end in itself, because they lived by it and for it. The more they were able to mystify the religion the greater was their grip over people. For them the will of God had given way to doing their will.
Someone who has had a personal encounter with God will always be able to go beyond the religious confines, if they tend to hold him back, in his pursuit of living for God and others. Jesus knew who God really is, and what he wanted him to do. True religion will help people to experience life in its fullness and become agents of life. Honoring every human being becomes the hallmark of true religion, because that is when we will be viewing people the way God does, as His true images.
The challenge for us today is to be constantly be vigilant in our following of religion, to see if we are actually doing God’s will, and following his ways. The question we have to ask ourselves is, has my faith in God made me more compassionate, more forgiving and more loving, of everyone, irrespective of their religious, racial, linguistic and national differences.
When we are able to look at people and see them as images of God and honor them as human beings, we can be sure that we are following the right religion and that we have experienced true God.
True religion makes us other-centered, because God is other-centered. Whereas on the other hand if we have become too judgmental and discriminatory in our life, we can be sure that we have lost our way.