Why I’m not sure about religion, but love Jesus

I got asked a strange question the other day, something I hadn’t considered.  Someone commented on this blog and then popped “the question” … Do you do requests?!

What was the request?  Well … they wanted me to give my opinions on a video that’s going round, “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus”.  Now some of you will know that the video has caused quite a bit of controversy in certain circles.  Here it is:

About two or three weeks ago I found the video appearing on Facebook with various introductions: “This is brilliant”, “Wonderful”, “Absolutely amazing”, etc, etc, etc.  But while the title of the video may come as a shock to some, it’s a very old idea in my experience.  One of my old vicars regularly used to comment that he wasn’t at all religious, he just followed Jesus.  Similarly, even this September, my church here in Bristol had a stand at the Fresher’s Fayre and I heard it yet again.  One of the students helping (amazing bloke, totally dedicated to God, a pleasure getting to know him) went to give a beer mat (don’t ask!) to a passer-by, only to be told “No thanks, I’m not religious”, to which he received the response “Neither am I, I just love Jesus.”

But as I watched the video I knew it made me feel uncomfortable.  But it’s a sentiment I’ve never really signed up to.  Although, I’m not against it either.  I mean, I know what they’re trying to say.  The idea is that “religion” is human’s trying to earn their way into God’s “good books” by partaking in certain rituals.  But, and this is what I like in the video, the Christian faith is very clear that, because of what Jesus did on the cross, we don’t need to earn our way into God’s “good books”.  The work has all been done.  As the video puts it:

And he absorbed all of your sin, and buried it in the tomb
Which is why I’m kneeling at the cross, saying come on there’s room

Absolutely right, couldn’t agree more.  If religion means “Trying to earn God’s favour through ritual, or good works”, then I’m out.  But is that what religion means?  Is that what people understand by the term?

So, out of interest, I asked people on Facebook to define “religion”, or “religious” for me.  A typical answer from a non-Christian was:

A series of beliefs held by a community of people often believing in some higher being, an organized faith.

Well, doesn’t that describe Christianity?  Jesus wasn’t against organised religious, he was against hypocrisy.  Against people mindlessly going through ritual, without it effecting how they lived.  If you really think Jesus was against ritual altogether, then how do you explain the fact he told us to repeatedly do things!  Things like baptizing people, or breaking bread and drink wine in remembrance of His death for us.

Other people mentioned “rules”.  Now, again, if this means trying to earn God’s favour then, no.  But, that doesn’t mean we have nothing to do.  We have a mission, a task, a job to get on with.  We don’t do it to earn God’s favour … but, though the work of salvation was completed at the cross, it was still followed by the resurrection.  And that was only the beginning!

The best response I’ve heard to the video is below:

God love’s His church, His bride, who He died for.  He is passionate about it and He believes in it, even if it appears many Christians aren’t quite as convinced.

So do I love religion?  Well it depends what you mean.  But, you know … I think I probably do.

About David

I'm the curate at St. Anne's Church, in the parish of Shevington, Standish Lower Ground and Crooke. I'm married to Carole and have two beautiful daughters called Sarah and Anabel
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8 Responses to Why I’m not sure about religion, but love Jesus

  1. Chris says:

    I never commented on your survey on FB, but I guess it’s interesting to think about the etymology of the word. I believe it is derived from the latin (re)ligare, to (re)connect; and has been considered in the context of bringing people together… i.e. religion means bringing people together. Just my tuppence.

  2. A.J. Culp says:

    Well said, David. Thanks for doing the hard work and wrestling with this!

  3. Daniel Wood says:

    When listening to the above it reminded me about an argument Paul had to address in one of his letters. He writes how some ‘follow Paul’, others ‘follow Apollo’ and still others ‘follow Jesus’ and yet, though one plants and other waters, it’s God who makes an individual grow. Jesus was never a radical against the law, in the contrary, he very much lived within its influence. He told those who he healed to present themselves before the priests at its written in the law of Moses, a law that God the Father himself gave. Jesus stood against the hypocrisy that the Jewish leaders based their ‘religion’ on. It angered him how they profited from the downtrodden, the needy, the oppressed. They loved the popularity that their responsibilities brought for them but never benefitted those they were responsible for. They took the very heart of God and packaged it in a way that brought them prosperity (you only have to think about Jesus’s reaction to the market place in his temple, or his illustrations like the parable of the good samaritan). IF that is what religion is then YES Jesus is against religion! But I believe it is a deeper issue then that one question but one that Jesus gave a simple answer for when thinking about Christain living. ‘When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was in prison, did you visit me? etc’ are the questions that will be asked of us when we see Jesus face-to-face. Those questions cut past all the ‘junk’ that this topic brings with it. Jesus saw the God’s heart in the law not his judgement, man saw judgement if rules could not be followed, Jesus saw the Father’s desire to be with his children. The representation of God’s presence (the arc of the covenant) was set at the centre of the Israelities journey through the desert. The rituals were needed, as set up by God himself’ so that the Father could have a way to communicate to his children. When Jesus fulfilled the law, he was fulfilling the very heart of God – hence the curtain was torn in two……..top down…..it was torn by the very hand of God. People worship in very different ways! Some like the structure that an organisation like the chruch of England brings, others like the freedom of Christian fellowships. I have had the privelage of worshiping in both arenas and I’ve always found individuals searching for the true heart of God. Jesus doesn’t hate religion, or the repitition that worship brings – as some have described religion (for we have to remember the good gifts that he has given to us and God knows how forgetful) but he hates the corruption that man’s heart brings, he hates people taking advantage of those who are at a disadvantage and he hates that, through organisations like the Church of England, men take glory for themselves – something that should only be reserved for God himself. Praise be to the Father in Heaven, thanks be given the the Son, through which we all have access to the Father, and may we all have our hearts open to the Spirit, in whom we have constant access to the Father. May you all be lead by the Spirit, the revealer of all the mysteries of God.

    • David says:

      Well said mate. Like you said the other day, if religion is just about following ritual, then everyone is “religious”, as everyone has their own “rituals” they regularly repeat. What’s wrong with making these rituals point us to God? The important thing is the heart and whether what we do results in a change in the way we live life. God does hate all those out to glorify themselves (which you can find in free churches too, by the way ;-P) and take advantage of there positions. But hating hypocracy is not the same as hating religion.

      • Daniel Wood says:

        Hear hear! Though reading back…next time I may type in Word first and sort out all the grammical errors, missed out words (or phrases……..;) ) and spelling mistakes. I would make a terrible teacher!

        • David says:

          hehe! Don’t worry I’m the same. Sometimes I re-read what I’ve written on here and think, “How on earth did I miss that!”

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