Religion – Evil in the name of God

Most people would think religion is a good thing. We usually associate it with a strong moral code, and piety. In actuality it is one of the most evil practices of mankind. One does not have to look far to find examples of how religious organizations persecute anyone who believes differently than they do. Perhaps the word persecution is not strong enough. Attempts to annihilate, eradicate, destroy and torture are common in religious disputes. We usually associate religion with the worship of God, however God would never want His followers to condemn, torture, or murder people who follow a different code.

Why are religious people so hateful and intolerant of anyone who believes differently? As soon as one converts the persecution stops. Why are we so threatened when someone has a different concept of serving God? Does it threaten our position with God if someone follows another way? Does it confirm our faith if others believe the same way? Does God condemn us if we don’t believe the “right way”? Is God’s love dependent on our actions? Do we earn His love by believing?

One definition of religion is “Man’s attempt to reach that which is ultimate”. In its pure form, Christianity is not a religion because Christianity is God’s attempt to reach mankind. Man’s attempt results in law and legalism.

Galatians 3:11–15

15 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.”

12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.”

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—

14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

 Whenever man tries to change his position with God by rules, does and don’ts or law, he has become religious. To justify his actions, he must define God in terms that he can understand. He places God in a box, as something he understands and controls, yet he would never admit this.

Christianity teaches that if you walk with God, do not reject Him, but allow the Holy Spirit to guide your actions, you will fulfill the law. The emphasis is not on your actions, but your mental consent and submission to God, saying “Lord your will in my life, not mine”. That is not religion, that is a relationship. It comes from understanding what Christ accomplished at the cross, when he cleansed us all from sin, the punishment from sin, and the guilt from sin.

It seems odd to have to say so, but too much religion is a bad thing. We can’t get too much of God, can’t get too much faith and obedience, and can’t get too much love and worship. But religion—the well-intentioned efforts we make to “get it all together” for God—can very well get in the way of what God is doing for us. The main and central action is everywhere and always what God has done, is doing, and will do for us. Jesus is the revelation of that action. Our main and central task is to live in responsive obedience to God’s action revealed in Jesus. Our part in the action is the act of faith.

But more often than not we become impatiently self-important along the way and decide to improve matters with our two cents’ worth. We add on, we supplement, we embellish. But instead of improving on the purity and simplicity of Jesus, we dilute the purity, clutter the simplicity. We become fussily religious, or anxiously religious. We get in the way.

That’s when it’s time to read and pray our way through the letter to the Hebrews again, written for “too religious” Christians, for “Jesus-and” Christians. In the letter, it is Jesus-and-angels, or Jesus-and-Moses, or Jesus-and-priesthood. In our time it is more likely to be Jesus-and-politics, or Jesus-and-education, or even Jesus-and-Buddha. This letter deletes the hyphens, the add-ons. The focus becomes clear and sharp again: God’s action in Jesus. And we are free once more for the act of faith, the one human action in which we don’t get in the way but on the Way. [1]

The religious person that appears to be successful in living the Godly life as they define it, is usually full of condemnation for those who do not live up to their standards. They will not associate with anyone that believes differently, because that threatens their definition of God. The God that they created in their mind could not possibly fit in someone else’s box.

 

[1] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Heb.

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