When you hear or see the word religion what comes to your mind? What feelings, thoughts ideas, visions come to you? And when these feelings and thoughts come to mind, what religion are you connecting it too? My emotions and thoughts of religion come from my personal experience. Back in the summer between 7th and 8th grade my parents were notified that my brother and I were not welcomed back to the Christian school we were attending. This was based on the premise that my brother was suspected of smoking marijuana. So going on hearsay they not only kicked him out but me as well. This left a really bad taste in our mouths regarding the church and we separated ourselves from it for years. It wasn’t until about 10 years later that I returned to it but that’s a whole other story My point is that a lot of us base our prejudices against religion based on our personal experiences and not what the faith teaches. So why am I talking about religion anyway? Well just this past week I got into an argument regarding religion. Although I don’t consider myself to be a “religious” person in the sense most think religious to be. Nonetheless I was told by this person that all religion does is create war, steal money for it’s own gain and perpetuate lies for power. I thought to myself “wow” the word religion really stirs up a lot of hatred. I think there is premise for this due to what some in the church have done throughout the years. There have been wars in the name of religion, extortion, hypocrisy, molestation, quest for power etc. I think that there is a distinction that gets lost in translation. Most would say that Christianity=Religion. Therefore everyone who is associated with the Christian church is religious hence equating Christians to horrible people. But what I think we really hate is not true religion but false religion. This same religion Jesus is against as well, while talking to the religious leaders of the day said this in Matthew 23:27–28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness”. This is the religion that most can’t stand and stirs up the hatred for the church. Recently there was a video put up about hatred toward religion and in 1 week has had over 15 million hits. This clearly demonstrates that there is a disdain for this false religion. The video in which I am referring to is below.
I think we need a better definition of religion so we all understand what we mean when we use it. Do we mean a set of man made rules created by the church in which we must follow? Or is it just a set of beliefs agreed on by a group of people? Maybe I am being a bit nit picky here and maybe it is just understood that people understand religion to be hypocritical religion, but then again maybe not. Here is a great post on the differences between the Gospel vs. false religion
The Bible has some things to say on the matter of religion. One is found in the book of James, who was the brother of Jesus. It says in James 1:26 –27 “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” So our actions should match what we believe. Of course it is impossible to always do this, but this should be what we strive for. John, one of Jesus’ disciples said it this way in John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” One last passage that I want to share with you is this Isa 58:6 –8,10 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard… if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” In these verses it clearly demonstrates our actions should be where our faith (religion) is.
Although there is much animosity toward religion, and in most cases rightly so we need to judge our religion on the creator of the faith and what the faith teaches and not on the people who distort it. Even though there is much harm that has come in the name of Christianity over the years it is also the Christians who give more to charitable causes than their secular counterparts.They run countless shelters, pregnancy centers, rescue missions, and food pantries. Christians operate orphanages, staff clinics, dig wells, raise crops, teach children, and fight AIDS around the globe to name a few. So don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. There is also a lot of good that comes from religion, we need to hate the false religion but hold on and embrace true religion.