The Pharisees were the legalists, following the law “to the T”. The Sadducees were the liberals catering to Herod (Rome) in order to keep the peace and maintain a high social status while still trying to follow God. The Essenes were “separatists.” They simply lived out in the desert separating themselves from the evil that existed in the cities and society. The Zealots were the fighters. For them it was God and country. Seize the land, stand up and fight for what is rightfully ours. These four sects made up the Jewish religious system of Jesus’ day. Jesus’ teachings opposed them all. It’s ironic how we still have a little of each of these in our churches today.
The Religious “Right” gospel is made up of all the above. Those who cling to this gospel believe they are right and everyone else is wrong. They will judge others, argue and cause disunity in the church to push their belief and agenda all the while leaving a poor testimony for those who are lost and looking for truth. In their zeal for the Lord they do more damage than good. They disregard the second greatest command “to love others” in an effort to be obedient to the first. Yet most of these right-winged gospel gurus are liberal enough to maintain their prosperity and high social status while picking and choosing for themselves what laws to follow. Some will even separate themselves from the world in an effort to follow what they believe to be of God. This gospel promotes pride, hate, anger, envy, disunity. This gospel has no grace from beginning to end. It’s all about works, performance and self-righteousness. When Jesus says in Matthew chapters five through seven, “You’ve heard it said… But I tell you…” He was speaking about these legalistic practices and teachings that were more about do’s and don’ts rather than a personal relationship with God.
The danger of this gospel is its extreme push towards works and obedience while lacking love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. It promotes legalism and intolerance. It pushes people to follow God out of guilt and fear. Rather than seeing God as a loving Father we begin to see Him as an Olympic judge, rating our performance. We forget about His love and grace that saved us in the first place only to start following this gospel of works and self-righteousness (Paul talks about this in his epistle to the Galatians).
Have you been clinging to this gospel? Are you a member of the church of the religious right? Jesus is calling all who are weary and heavy burdened. His yoke is light. Find peace in the Lord today. Trust in His love and remember His promises. We are saved by grace through faith not of works so that no one can boast (Eph 2:8-9). “A new command I give you, love one another as I have loved you.” --JESUS