Hating religion

Hebrews 13:7-17
From time to time, people bring up the debate of religion versus relationship. You can hear echoes of the viral video “I Love Jesus But Hate Religion.”

All in all, it’s a fair argument to consider. Is it possible to focus more on the ins and outs of your religious traditions more than your walk with Jesus? Of course, it is!

It happened during Jesus’ time. It’s happened throughout church history. It’s probably happened in your church, too.

Can it happen to you?

The book of Hebrews speaks to all this. Its message is the centrality and superiority of Jesus. He is central to our life with God and superior to any form of religion. His sacrifice at his altar sanctifies us, not our old rituals. The cross is his altar and his life was his sacrifice. Its power is in its finality. Jesus doesn’t have to die on the cross ever again.

And because of the sacrifice of Jesus, we sacrifice as well. Knowing there’s more that can be said about it, I consider our sacrifice to be our religion.

Romans 12 calls us to be a living sacrifice. Hebrews 13 tells us to offer a two-fold sacrifice. We are to first bring a sacrifice of praise to God. Have you considered your praise to be a sacrifice? Has your praise ever cost you anything? Does that speak to any of us who are so concerned with getting out of worship before noon?

The second sacrifice relates to the first. Hebrews says to “not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Whereas a sacrifice of praise may be tougher to distinguish, it’s easier to feel the sacrifice of sharing our possessions. 

Now, why would we be willing to make such sacrifices? Because of our religion? No, because of our faith in and relationship with Jesus. To be sure, anyone can help other people. People who claim no faith in God often share of themselves, too. Plus, most religions include service and care of those in need.

So, what distinguishes the Christian sacrifice from theirs? Does there need to be a distinction?

Sometimes, Christians have the idea that we help people so we can convert them. Sorry, but that idea makes what we do insincere and manipulative. That’s part of the reason people have a distaste for religion. It gets used to use other people.

I happen not to hate religion. I know its place. I know its limits and function. Religion is an expression of our faith. And I know our religious understanding calls us to serve and love people with the same eagerness and joy we serve and love God. Maybe that’s the problem for us. That sounds good to say on Sunday morning, but what about after that? C.S. Lewis said, “If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” Our Christian faith calls for too much sacrifice to be too comfortable.

We don’t need to hate religion unless it becomes our savior. If our religion takes the place of our relationship with Christ, we’ve created an idol. That’s when we lose the true sacrifice of faith. I’m pretty sure God hates that kind of religion. 
Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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