It is on public record that the most violent activities in this world are instigated by religion. Let alone what is written about the activities of the Israelites, in the Old Testament Bible. The Islamic religion has produced the most acerbic terrorist organizations, posing high insecurity across the world. The most dangerous, and yet the most important questions ought to be about the relevance of religion.
According to the gospel accounts, Jewish authorities in Roman Judea charged Jesus with blasphemy and sought his execution. But lacked the authority to have Jesus put to death (John 18:31). So they brought Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the province, who authorized Jesus‘ execution (John 19:16).
However, as a political figure, Pilate authorized the execution of Jesus, not as appealing to his conscience. He had to wash his hands, as unconvinced of the cause of Jesus’s murder, before succumbing to the needs of the Jews. We have to answer the question of why Governor Pilate was certain that there was no justifiable evidence to kill Jesus.
The primary accusation of Jesus was blasphemy. But those Jews did not know the God against whom Jesus had blasphemed. Blasphemy implied insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence to a deity, or sacred objects, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable. Some nations still consider blasphemy to be criminal.
Apparently, this portrays humanity’s state of slavery. Jesus had to die, in order to free humanity from this type of slavery. Religion was unnecessary, hence Jesus had to die, to remove such a terrible curse. The Jews had God’s Laws properly articulated in their statutes, but unable to apply them, according to Christ’s revelations.
Jesus never came to abolish God’s Laws (Matthew 5:17). He clarified the misunderstanding in the application of those Laws. What God said was sufficient, if applied accurately: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” Exodus 20:3-4) (NIV).
There is no ambiguity. God clearly told those Israelites to avoid being religious. Things covered in the Ten Commandments are moral laws, meant to guide their conduct. God could not be likened to anything created. True worship is reserved for God alone, who is not likened to anything created, in the physical universe.
The Israelites’ problem was in not understanding that their God needed to be worshiped outside religion. The rest of humanity had worshiped idols within the context of religion. Hence, the Israelites had the appetite of conforming to the pattern of such practices by those in their neighborhood.
Instead of applying God’s Laws, as a matter of principle, the Israelites sought to convert those Laws into some religious artefacts. The Levitical leaders had to literally tie those Commandments onto their foreheads, fulfilling the letter of the Law. The idea of applying what the Ten Commandments implied, could not resonate with their common sense.
Their focus was on religion, rather than appreciating the principle, associated with goodness. They could not know or personally relate to God who took them out of slavery. They appreciated the fact that there was a God who miraculously extricated them from slavery, in Egypt. But they could not identify with that same God.
The disintegration of the Israelites, who subsequently relapsed into slavery, was principally caused by such misunderstandings. Their God was not to be associated with religion. This was later clarified by Jesus, Himself—during His conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well.
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:19-24) (NIV).
Jesus clarified what ought to have been understood by the entire Israelites—blinded against the aspect of worshiping in Spirit and in truth. Their attitude was caught up in desiring to be like their neighbors. Hence, remaining ignorant of God’s true nature, although having taken them out of Egypt:
“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’
But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you that they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you’” (1 Samuel 8:4-8) (NIV).
Even during that period of the Old Testament, God had not approved the idea of religious consideration for guidance. The Israelites were supposed to trust God, and him alone (Exodus 20:3-4). The Jews later became strict law-keepers, but such was necessitated by fear. There is a difference between fear-driven obedience and knowledge-driven obedience.
The fundamental point is in appreciating that God is the Father of humanity. Therefore, one’s love for God ought not to be induced by fear. Neither should there be superstitious consideration in knowledge and understand of God. Just as Jesus had an unquestionable relationship with God, true believers, have an unquestionable relationship with God.
The main accusation, leading to Jesus’s crucifixion, was blasphemy, implying the possibility of mixing truth and lies. In as much as the Jews accused Jesus of blasphemy, they were, actually, guilty of blasphemy. Unlike Jesus, they did not know God, as likening Him to created things. Jesus refused to mix or share His love of God with anyone or anything of this world because He came from God.
There is no disputing that Jesus came from God. But where did all humans come from? The fact that, as humans, we have become so degraded, as to have lost our identity does not mean we did not come from God. Jesus, as our brother, came to show us the light, so that we can follow Him, accordingly. See [The Prodigal Son and the Mystery of Man].
All humans are potentially God’s children, required to repent before becoming God’s children. That which caused Pilate to insist that Jesus had no crime, came from his inner conscience, revealing Pilate’s potentiality of being God’s Son. However, Pilate did not have the fiber to resist succumbing to human nature.
It takes strong characters to stand for the truth. Each human being possesses some truth, just as Governor Pilate held truth. The only reason why many people choose to suppress the truth and be associated with lies is the fear of rejection by others. The degraded humans obtain security from their respective groupings, rather than from God.
But, such behavior is animalistic, if not idolatrous. Cowardice leads to the opposite of survival. This can be confirmed, in animal behavior. A Buffalo is safer when standing its ground, to fight its predator. It becomes more vulnerable when attempting to run away from its predator.
The danger lies in not confronting the predator, as opposed to fleeing from the predator. It is quite fascinating to watch hundreds of buffaloes stampeding through the forests, in fear of one or two lions. But on a few occasions, buffaloes have stood their ground. It is not about the power or size that wins the match. It is about tactic and reason.
A lion knows when to attack its prey and also when to retreat from the same prey. For a lion to be given the term “king of the jungle” it is not about its size or strength. It is about tact in dealing with other animals. My ability to write about animal behavior shows that my nature is above animals. A human being is above animals.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27) (NIV).
It would only be a deranged person who then assumes comparisons among humans. That which is God’s image is spiritual, although not God, necessarily. In his self-determinism, Governor Pilate had no case to convict Jesus, as suggested by the Jews. Like his fellow degraded humans, Governor Pilate could not sustain his own integrity.
He had to consider the views of other people, ahead of his own conscience. Some people would suggest that listening to the majority is a sign of humility. Actually, a sign of humility implies not compromising with one’s own reality.
The desire to compromise to other people’s viewpoints is spurred by pride, rather than humility. A proud person is the one who seeks to impress, rather than express himself for what he truly believes. All our problems, as human beings, arise from the inability to stand for the truth, disguised as humble behavior.
Most people are willing to project the characters of other people, rather than their own characters. Only a few are willing to stand by their convictions. Zimbabwe is at the edge of demise, not because everyone is in agreement with the government’s ruinous policies. The majority hold unquestionable moral integrity, but unable to stand for what they know to be right.
The opposition that a person faces, initially, comes from one’s own family members, before the price for defending what is right is considered. This explains why even most Christians cannot understand what Jesus meant in some of His teachings:
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39) (NIV).
To love Jesus is not subscribing to the majority’s viewpoint, ahead of one’s own integrity. Others die, assuming to stand for the truth. Some die in the process of defending religious beliefs. Governor Pilate would have risked his political position, had he chosen to stand by his conscience.
He could have released Jesus. But the Jews insisted that by releasing Jesus, he would be Caesar’s enemy: “From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar’” (John 19:12) (NIV).
Whether true that Caesar might have not backed Governor Pilate’s decision, remains unknown. But what is clear is that Pilate could not risk losing his friendship with Caesar. Rather than the true God, reflected in his conscience, Caesar was his god. Many people miss this reality—more-so, those claiming to be religious.
The first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me,” (Exodus 20:3) remains misunderstood, by most Christians. It is possible that others may be willing to die for their leaders, but not for their integrity. Consider those willing to commit horrendous activities, on behalf of political leaders?
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8) (NIV).
This is just as Jesus gave a parable about a non-religious Good Samaritan—risking his own security, assisting a stranger entrapped in danger (Luke 10:25-37). That Good Samaritan identified with God, in conscience, as opposed to religious leaders. Jesus brought freedom. But, indeed, there cannot be freedom in religion.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99
Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com for $6.99