Just a few thoughts from my upcoming book release ‘The Beautiful Christ’
It seems no one wants to be religious anymore. Christopher Hitchens has called religion, ‘the root of all evil.’ Others have said worse. There are far too many examples of what people have done, and are doing on planet earth right now, in the name of a god, which are totally immoral. This has led many to accept this belief. It even effects those who follow a belief in Christ and has led them to have an identity crisis.
As a result, ‘I am not religious, but I love Jesus,’ is a common saying amongst some Christians.
The desire of many is to distance themselves from much of the unpleasant preconceptions people have about believers, as well as, the trappings, traditions, and failing of many who call themselves Christians. We now have new terms we use other than the title of Christian. We use such names as ‘I am a Christ Follower’, ‘I am a Red letter Christian’, or some other new and creative title.
I understand the reasoning behind this. For many Christians, irrelevant traditions, bad leadership, or bad teaching have never been part of their experience in the first place. For others, they just want to live out a simple faith and don’t want to be lumped together with those who’s practices are totally different. Whatever the case, their terminology may be incorrect.
By definition whether you follow, or don’t follow, the rituals or traditions of any particular church or denomination, if you are a believer, you are indeed part of following a religious figure. Christianity is certainly, at its core, about a relationship with Jesus. Christianity is also a religion. However, the fact that Christianity is a religion does not have to be viewed as a negative.
Consider this for a moment. There is a Biblical definition or what religion should look like. For a follower of Christ to even say they are not religious shows some ignorance of scripture and the definition of the word. Also, because there is a definition of what a ‘religious person’ who is a follower of Christ looks like, then it is a call for Christians to operate within this. To make religion be known for something other than this definition would then be incorrect for us to do. Here is what the Bible says ‘Religion’ should be.
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
There is nothing ugly, offensive, or destructive in this pure and genuine religion mentioned in Scripture. It is free from the contaminates brought by the agenda’s of man. There is not even a hint of a self serving attitude. No perverse scheming. It is instead, something attractive. If those who call themselves believers were known for this instead of being judgmental, homophobic, anti-science, than faith would suddenly be attractive to many.
Pure religion is being the answer to those who are destitute, lonely, and broken. It is being there to pick up the pieces left when death, poverty, divorce, and hardship have ravaged the lives of our fellow human beings. It is about being the answer to the broken’s cry and prayer for help. Seeking and living out this call to be religious should move us to live lives full of compassion and mercy.
Pure religion is also deciding that we will not be conformed to the materialism and consumerism that has infected our mindsets and society. Understanding our self worth is not to be based on what a magazine or a television ad says is sexy, successful, or important. Pure religion is being free from the corporate agendas which try and control our thinking in order to make someone wealthy. Pure religion in a sense is the beginning of finding beauty and worth in each one of us.
The measuring stick of what the Bible presents as religion is how is this relationship with God affecting how we treat others. Is it in judgement or grace? Pride or humility? Punishment or mercy? Hate or love? Worthless or valued. This is how we should also examine our own Christian walk and our churches. If faith isn’t moving us in this direction then perhaps we ourselves are in an extremely dangerous place where we are at risk of becoming destructive and an obstacle of true and pure religion.
Many years ago as I visited an orphanage for severely physically disabled children and youth in Mexico several times. It was easy to become overwhelmed by sadness as the needs and challenges each of these young people were living with were immense. At the same time, I witnesses first hand something truly incredible. In the midst of suffering there were a group of nuns who had given themselves to care for these children. When I really consider their sacrifice I have had to realize these children may never be able to give back to these women. They may never hear the words, ‘Thank You’, from one of these young people that they cared for. They have and will continue to clean vomit, snot, and feces every day. I have realized they were not doing this for what they were going to get in return from those they were serving. In the midst of suffering, surrounded by despair, was something so incredible. Something so valuable. Something so life changing. It was beautiful religion at work in all its fullness.
As we look at this Biblical definition of religion we see something very different than our own understanding of the term. How ludicrous it would be to say loving the widow and orphan is the root of all evil. I truly believe it is time for us to walk in the beauty that pure and genuine religion calls us to. We should stand united against injustice of any kind, especially against those who exploit faith to bring harm. We must forget the man made definitions and run from the corruption which has tried to rob us of this most incredible gift to the broken.
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Romans 12:9
Live religiously. It is pure and genuine beauty in the fullest.