Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Can Christians be Religious?

A viral video clip is tearing up the Internet right now proclaiming a hatred of religion but a love of Jesus. The premise of this clip is trying to emphasize that religion without life change is meaningless and that only a transformative lifestyle of following Jesus matters. I get that and I like it but that is not really what the clip says.
What I don’t like is the other side of this clip which is naive, arrogant, and simply false. If we were to take heart the idea of hating religion what would the result be? Consider the following; Would anyone continue to gather together in buildings that we call church to learn and worship together? If not, then a huge part of our own faith journey would be missing and the very fabric of Biblical life (communities meeting together, learning together, and worshipping together) would be ignored.
 If we took this video to heart would there be any standard beliefs or practices or would it be an “anything goes” attitude because we don’t want to be religious? If a group of people who follow Jesus agree that they believe baptism is important that is religion. If no one has the right to come to consensus on beliefs than views generally accepted as heretical would be okay as long as it is considered following Jesus.
 If we hated religion then the very act of worship would go away. The very heart of religion, in fact the definition is, "the belief in and worship of a supernatural controlling power”. If you ever gather in an organized way to proclaim an agreement in the greatness of God and encourage one another with positive input rather than the negative things we hear all week, then you are involved in religion. Furthermore, this video says, “Jesus hated religion”. False. Jesus hated the thought that practicing religion made you better than others, and he hated people thinking that religion makes one clean, but he never hated religion. The Hebrew scriptures are packed full of instructions for religious worship. Jesus himself made religious pilgrimages and went through religious ritual cleansing. Did he think that made him better? No, but he did think the religious practices were important.
 Religion in and of itself does nothing to increase our spiritual status before God, but it is huge in our journey of living with one another and proclaiming the greatness of God. Religion helps us stay on the same page of what is truth and it serves as a balance to keep us from creating our own truth. Religion helps us journey with other like-minded people for encouragement. All week long we are inundated with negative ads, with foul messages, and with false promises. Religion gives us a framework to war against those lies and to see that we might not be crazy after all for believing what we believe. The bottom line is this. God encouraged religion, Jesus was religious, and our religious expression as followers of God does not make us better than others, but it does make us better than we are without it.