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.