In Matthew 23:13, Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to”
Who are these gate-keepers of the Kingdom? Quite simply, they are those people who say that their way is the only right way. You want to get into the Kingdom of Heaven? Then you have to do it OUR way, and no-one else’s, otherwise you’re not getting in.
And because of that attitude, they demonstrate that they are not really ‘in’ either, according to Jesus’s words that I have quoted above. It follows from this that actually the Kingdom is really broadly encompassing, welcoming to all who would come, and not just those whom the Religious people deem ‘worthy’. Those who have such an exclusive attitude are virtually showing that they do not understand the nature of the Kingdom of God, hence Jesus’s words.
Notice also that the Teachers of the Law are mentioned – the legalists. Those who would espouse certain do’s and don’t’s in order to be ‘good enough’ for God. Also the Pharisees – those who would be slightly more ‘helpful’ than the Teachers of the Law, in that they are eager to point out others’ ‘sins’ in order to try to ‘help’ them attain the standards that they thought qualified humans for the Kingdom. But of course it just comes across as its plain source: judgementalism! And anyway no-one can be made righteous (in right standing before God) through following rules (Rom 3:20).
I mean, it’s not rocket science. I think the take-home message of this is that dogma, doctrine and ‘sin-policing’ help no-one; in fact, quite the opposite effect occurs: You behave like those guys, and you will just put people off God altogther!
The thing is that God is not at all like the angry, narrow-minded monster that some Christians make Him out to be. He’s more like Jesus than he is like the Terminator, but many Christians would have us believe that the latter is actually a better likeness.
I can’t think of many things more likely to put people off my Father God….
If you liked this article, here’s another one you might like – ‘The Christians Making Atheists‘, by John Pavlovitz.