I do not prescribe to Religion (with a capital R; as construed by general society). I do pursue (follow, worship) Christ religiously. Big difference. One is a noun that often implies that my practices and activities alone can get me to God and Heaven. The other is an adverb that describes the intensity and consistency of my desire for the things that can only come from Him to me. The latter indicates a relationship not unlike a child’s pursuit of a parent or, if that doesn’t grab you, a lover of their beloved.
However, I do think it is important to examine our notions about religion in order to understand and position Christ as a viable option to those who are skeptical of Christianity as a Religion.
My first thought when I hear people say that religion is the “opiate of the masses” is…then why isn’t everyone high? Because according to its definition, we all participate in religious activity…even the Christopher Hitchens’ of the world. Yep. I said it.
Religious: scrupulously faithful; conscientious; something one believes in and follows devotedly; ritual observance (dictionary.com)
In other words, most of us spend our lives pursuing [fill in the blank] religiously. If that weren’t the case, then some of us — not me, unfortunately— wouldn’t show up at the gym at 5am in pursuit of health, or maybe less prudent, the ideal body. Others of us wouldn’t show up at work on time, everyday, sometimes early — again, not me — in pursuit of money or purpose. Sundays find just as many people parked on the couch waiting for the next football game as it does people parked on a pew waiting for a sermon.
None of these are wrong (in and of themselves). Yet only one is scrutinized as foolish.
The difference between how people view these everyday things and the assessments made of those of us who follow Christ is the perceived value of these actions in relationship to the outcomes. When you go to the gym, to work, or watch a football game, there is an immediate satisfaction of a need or want through your own actions. So the idea that one’s spiritual hunger can be satiated by no action of their own…by something as seemingly abstract as God ‘s love and grace…is difficult to accept. Particularly in a world that, at best, identifies love as transitory and grace as unwise.
There’s a saying: Everyone wants to go to Heaven but no one wants to die. Well I submit that this is more of a problem for believers (who, in a post-restoration state, experience fully the struggle between their flesh and spirit) rather than non-believers. For those who are seeking, it’s more like this: Everyone wants to go to Heaven but EVERYONE wants to Drive. You see, we humans understand religious activity quite well. It’s the reason why religious institutions have been so powerful for so long and why we rebel against it so ardently. It’s the whole love, grace and mercy thing that we struggle with and against. And that’s what an authentic relationship with Christ conveys.
Therein lies the greatest opportunity to act out Christ’s great commission (Matt. 28:19-20). No matter the challenge or the push back we may get from those who have only seen our Religion (capital R) as representative of who we are… we MUST focus on sharing and showing God’s love, grace, and mercy. We must live it out in front of the world daily, in spite of our discomfort with the very people, places, and things that need Him the most. The Body of Christ can distinguish its Faith from other inconsequential religious activity and traditions (including and especially our own) by sharing the exponential value of the outcomes of accepting His free gift – an eternal relationship with Christ and the Father and the trustworthy guidance of the Holy Spirit day-to-day – all without doing anything but saying YES with your whole heart.
3 Replies to “Why Religion Doesn’t Work (and other thoughts on evangelism)”
100% in agreement. I've been talking to people about this for weeks now! Mainly about how going to Church is not getting anyone into heaven. And how I don't believe/practice religion…mouths drop with that one. I feel too many people I come across have encountered someone wrapped in Religion who often will come off with no humility, a belief in a rule based passage into heaven, and lacking mercy. God is speaking to a lot of us about this very subject. I plan on posting something this week about this, and would like to quote you, please! Once I get my thoughts together. If I ever do.
I believe that you should want relationship over religion. But i do value corporate worship. I love coming together with other believers to re-energize and to remind myself that i am a part of the body of Christ. I really think that if i didn't engage often with other believers, i might start to believe that my way is the only way. And I should pursue HIS way above all else. Also, i think that Religion has it's place just like the gym/trainers have theirs. if you are just starting out on the journey (spiritual/fitness) you need to be in a place that can guide you until you learn how to seek God/workout on your own.
I do agree with you Neysa. Part of pursuing Christ religiously is the desire to be in fellowship with other believers worshipping together. However, I do think that some Christians have created a groupthink mentality that focuses more on church tasks and laws instead of God's grace and mercy. And it's these things that new believers who already have come to God broken…need the most. The body of Christ, I feel, needs to expand its worship well outside the church walls. Live it on the outside so that people will want to meet our friend and Savior, Jesus, instead of joining our religion.