As you know, if you’ve read anything by me or listened to any talk I’ve given – I’m not a big fan of religion. I don’t like Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism or even my own religion – Christianity. Why? And what do I mean by that?
The one time the word “religion” is used positively in the Bible is James 1:26-27:
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
The dictionary defines religion in several ways. Among those are: 1. Commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance. 2. A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
Like so many issues we discuss on this site, some of this discussion is simply semantics. (Although we could say that everything is “semantics” in one sense – it’s all how words are used and relate to one another). However, I believe it is a hugely important discussion with eternal ramifications; which is why I constantly harp on it.
Let me start by saying what this is NOT. Saying that I don’t believe in religion, because Jesus came to free us from it – is NOT saying anything against the church as expressed by local congregations. The gathering of the believers in regular and intentional forms is not only necessary but it is the very means by which God’s kingdom is expressed and advanced on earth.
I am also NOT saying that because Jesus came to destroy religion, we can do and believe whatever we want. Not at all. There are absolutes and we can know what these are from reading the Bible and following the leading of the Holy Spirit (which is how we follow Jesus since we don’t physically see him).
Here’s what I am saying (and this will take me a couple of posts to flesh out):
Jesus coming to “fulfill the law” is not the same as him bringing or fulfilling religion. If that was the case, then we should all be part of the Jewish religion. So it can’t mean that…
Therefore, if Jesus did not come to make us all Jews, then you might say he came to make us all part of the Christian religion. A number of issues with that, the main one being – he never suggested such a thing.
If he didn’t come to make us all Jews, or to start a new religion – then what did he come to do/start?
A way! Simple as that. And what’s the way? Him?
A way to what? The Kingdom of God. Ah ha, you say. Isn’t “The Kingdom of God” simply another way of saying “Christianity?”
Not even close. The term “Christianity” has come to take on a whole set of meanings. It is the name of a religion with 2.2 billion adherents, many of which are not in any real way actually following Jesus. And since neither Jesus nor Paul equate the Kingdom of God with Christianity – why should we? It only confuses the heart of the matter.
Enough for now. Feedback? Pushback? Fight? I’ll write more the end of the week.