Jesus vs. Religion
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the main event! Coming to the ring first, all the way from Nazareth in the Galilee... this... is... Jesus the Messiaaaaaaaaah! ...Messiah! And coming the ring next, His opponent, all the way from minds of well-meaning people of the ages... this... is... Religiooooooon! ...Religion!
Sometimes that's how I feel. Somehow, we've shifted into this mindset that Jesus is good, but religion is bad. All the while, there are many people in our world who don't know there is a difference. One person might say, "Oh, I'm very religious" meaning "I consider myself a Christian." But another might say, "I hate religion!" meaning "I consider myself a Christian." What about those that consider themselves a religious person, but it has nothing to do with Christianity? And what about someone who would consider themselves to be spiritual but not at all religious?
Here are a few things from my own heart:
I'll start with my own definition of religion: an understood set of life rules which are determined by how a person acts on what they believe.
I think this differs from how religion is generally defined, in that usually religion is thought of as a set of rules (usually written down) that determine what a person believes and how they act. This is where the separation of Jesus and religion comes in, because I don't feel that Jesus was, or is, about this kind of religion.
When I read the story of Jesus, I read about One who has established, and is now reigning over, a Kingdom of Love. It is a spiritual kingdom, and it is established in the hearts of those who would accept the love of a Most Gracious King. In this kingdom, loving the King is a way of life. Citizens trust that the King truly has their best interests at heart, and love Him for that. And out of this trust and love, they live as citizens of His Kingdom.
Are you tracking with this? No one enters this spiritual kingdom by talking about it... or doing good deeds... or offering up specific prayers at specific times of the day... or wear specific clothing... or attempting to understand certain universal secrets... or by relaxing the mind and body... or by being a part of a gathering... or by controlling their own destiny... No one gets into the Kingdom by acting like a citizen of it. That is religion without Jesus.
To be spiritual is to be reconnected. None of the things above (and not even who you vote for in the upcoming election) can reconnect us. Isn't that what all this religious stuff is about - reconnecting us? I'm not the only one who has felt like the world is broken... disconnected... am I? We are more than flesh and bone - in our very essence of who we are, we are spirit. We can't not be spiritual! And the whole point, I think, of Jesus is the spiritual kingdom that He established and is reigning over. He loves us and says to us, "Come, follow me." I love that! He's all about reconnecting the broken pieces of our lives and our world.
And now, because I love a King who loves me and desires the best for my life... I talk about the Kingdom... I do good deeds... I offer up specific prayers at specific times of the day... I sometimes wear certain clothes... I attempt to understand universal secrets... I relax my mind and body... I am regularly a part of a gathering... I am choosing my own destiny... I am acting like a citizen of the Kingdom because I am a citizen of the Kingdom! This is religion as a response to Jesus.
As you wrestle with this yourself, may you discover the joy and hope and peace of having your spirit reconnected... and may you live in that joy and hope and peace!