We talked about the religious/spiritual culture of Jesus' time, and did some comparing with the Christian culture of our time. People broke up into groups and examined different groups --Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots; as well as the general Jewish culture, and the overall (outside Judaism) culture of the region.
One interesting discovery was that most Jews of Jesus' time did not belong to any of the 4 groups mentioned above. Here are some general observations people made, as well as some of my own:
Judaism was sometimes very legalistic. Jews believed in and followed the law, but some, like the Pharisees, build rules around the laws, to help people follow the law, and became very restrictive and legalistic.
Judaism was patriarchal--men were in control, women did not have much of a voice--and hierarchical.
Some parallels in our church culture: we, too, have divisions and different groups. For the Jews, the differences were mostly over orthopraxy (Greek for "correct practice)--how they lived out their faith. For Christians today, I think most of the division is over orthodoxy (correct belief).
I think the modern church wastes a lot of time and energy arguing over issues of theology that aren't crucial, missing out on opportunities to live out the love of Jesus in a world that really needs it.
Jesus stepped into Jewish culture with teachings and actions that were radically different. I believe a church community that truly lives out the teaching and follows the example of Christ will also look be radically different. In the coming weeks we'll talk about how.