Quite simply, religion doesn't displace love but replaces love with rituals and rules. God is love. That's why Jesus was repulsed by what he saw in the religious leaders.
They had no love and had replaced love with rituals and rules. Even more and at the crux of it, had displaced God as King!
It absolved them of having to care for the least, the poor, the lost, the gentiles, the Samaritans, or whomever else they deemed unworthy and it put them where they did not belong.
Deciding who was acceptable or not. Redeemable or not. Approved or not.
They put themselves in the very seat of God. In the seat of judgment. In the seat of supply and resource.
That's why Jesus would often say that while they did the right things, their hearts were far from him. Jesus was God in the flesh. God is love. They had no love.
Paul dealt with the same throughout Asia Minor with fellow Jews and the Gentiles. The religious were still telling the people they had to adhere to not only traditional Jewish law but new ones they imposed.
Paul had to be steeped in Jewish law and Roman laws and customs. And he was. He knew well the political AND the religious aspects. He was brilliant having been born a Jew in the Roman city of Tarsus, educated by the top Rabbi of his day, of the very tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee.
Yet with Roman citizenship and well well-versed in that culture. It's why he was so useful to God.
Saul did not "turn into Paul." Paul was born a Jew in the Roman city of Tarsus and dual names were common. Saul, Hebrew reference, Paul, among Romans and Greeks. Saul himself was a hardcore Jewish nationalist.
In fact, when Jesus called him, he called him by his Hebrew name.. Saul.
Uniquely set apart by God. He needed a Paul who understood both worlds. And, who could speak the language and understand the religious and political culture of both.
Paul, like Jesus, spent a good portion of his time teaching and preaching redemption, not religion. Love not ritual.
This is what we are dealing with today my friends with the idolatry of nationalism.
It's not just "Christian nationalism." I almost hesitate to say this because I do not want to offend. But it is deeper than that. There are people fighting against Christian nationalism because it goes against "church and state" and their political progressive views.
Nothing wrong with that. We all need to be in this fight!! However, I stand against it for very different reasons. Because nationalists have put themselves where they don't belong. In a seat where they don't belong.
Those of us fighting against this cancer on democracy and individual freedoms are on the same side. Many of us are just not on the same team.
I can stand with non-Christians, and those of other faiths, even those of no faith in this fight against the dangerous encroachment of Christian nationalism and I do. Same side, but different team. Allies, not teammates. To be clear. I am Team Jesus. Not team blue, team red, or team purple.
That is what I mean when I say that just because you're on the same side doesn't mean you're on the same team. Love not control. Freedom and redemption not domination.
Not America first. Kingdom first.