When I was a child I attended Christian churches, which, although they preached the good news of the Gospel, nevertheless taught that we had to strive all of our lives to please God and conform to certain rules. So I was taught not to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, visit the cinema or to dance. We had turned Jesus into a religion.
Now we can drink as long as we don’t get drunk, and we can even dance in church. However there is still a risk of encouraging religion by expecting people to conform to our standards and rules.
For two thousand years, we have turned the good news into a religion. The process started with the early church when some were told they needed to be circumcised to really be saved. Others were told that they mustn’t eat meat which had been used as an offering to other religions. Others were side-lined into worshipping angels. Some tried to reconcile the Old Testament law with their new-found faith. Continue reading “What is wrong with Religion?”
I was brought up to believe that Christians would always be a minority and that we had to defend ourselves from the ‘world’ and from those who would try to destroy our faith and steal our values and beliefs. Our church was like a castle with the drawbridge up. If only we can hang on till Jesus comes and judges our enemies, then will be saved, but everyone else will be for ever punished in Hell.
We tried our best to drag others in but every Sunday the gospel was preached largely to the already converted. “Come and join us,” was the message: “Sign on the dotted line, believe what we believe, stop smoking, drinking and dancing and we will accept you as one of us”.
Religion suffers from a bad press. People often see religion as a negative influence in the development of mankind! As followers of Jesus Christ we are fond of saying, “This is not a religion, it is about following Jesus and knowing God”. But the fact is, although we may not regard ourselves as religious, people still label us as religious.
But there is, according to James, a form of religion which is pure, faultless, good and acceptable to God. Pure religion is to look after the disadvantaged in society, and to be involved with our communities without being corrupted by them.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”.
(James 1:27 New International Version)