Monday, January 23, 2012

Religion vs. Relationship


Many of you may have seen this video, some of you may not have…  I happened to see it very early on.  When I watched it the first time, it wasn’t even at 8,000 views yet, now it is well over 16 Million.  All in less than three weeks...


While I am glad to see so many viewing it and discussing it, contemplating it’s meaning, etc.  I watched it because I have found that since I started this blog, and my journey to earn my Master’s Degree, I have been asked more than once… “What religion are you?” or “I didn’t know you were a Nazarene…”  Well, I am not a “Nazarene”.  I will be earning my Master’s of Divinity from “The Nazarene Theological Seminary”, but I do not consider myself a “Nazarene”.

Several of my High School friends thought I was Roman Catholic.  I am guessing that is because I grew up in a neighborhood where Catholicism was the dominant "religion" or "denomination", coupled with the fact that I often attended Catholic churches with my friends, especially one old girlfriend.

Since I was being asked, it forced me to think about it.  I have never considered myself anything other than Christian.  I have attended “Free Will” churches, “Baptist” churches, and several “Non-Denominational” churches.  While I was raised in “Non-Denominational” churches, most of my adult life I have attended “Baptist” churches, but my reaction to “What religion are you?” isn’t “Baptist”, but people want a cubby hole to put me in when they ask, “What denomination are you?”

I love Jesus.  I follow Jesus’ teachings.  Do I do so perfectly?  Heck no.  Not even close.  But I never claimed to either.  Do I want to?  Yes, with ALL that is within me, but the reality is, I can’t.  None of us can; which is precisely why it is so important that Jesus did what He did.

You see, He did not come here to abolish Religion.  He came here to die, to go to Hell, and then defeat death by rising again.  I can’t fully explain this, as it is something that requires faith but I am convinced that it is true.  Yes, it is true that Jesus spoke against some of the “Religious” persons of His day, but it is important that we keep things in context, and that we understand who exactly these people were.  We don't read many stories of those who were NOT in this group, so we tend to imagine that this group of "Religious" people that are spoken of represent "Religion" in general.  Not true.  

Jesus Himself went to the Temple and taught there.  The people He was teaching there were people who were earnestly seeking God via a “Religion”.  The people Jesus spoke out against were people who were earnestly seeking to promote themselves via their “Religion”.  See the difference?  It is a very important one.  The “Religious” people who were seeking to promote their own interests above those of the “seekers” were the ones Jesus spoke out against.  Those whose motives were right are not mentioned much.  Why?  I think it comes down to our natural instincts for what motivates us and what interests us.

Think about this.  When you watch the news, what are the news stories that you hear about?  We generally hear the bad things that are happening in our area.  One person is murdered and it's news, two people get murdered and it can consume 30-50% of a news cast.  But what about the other million people who were not murdered?  We don't hear anything about them.  We don't hear about all of the good things that happened during a day, we only hear what the newscasters tell us.

To say that Jesus was against “Religion” is not completely accurate.  If it were, why did he say to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my Church.”  If He were against “Religion” why would he have emphasized how important it was that we meet together with others of like mindedness?  “Do not forsake the gathering together in my name…” doesn’t sound to me like “Have a relationship with me and you’re good to go.”

The problem is, that the real truth lies somewhere between the two extremes.  We are to have a personal relationship with Jesus, but we are to do so in order that we might be lights in a dark world.  We are not called to try to do so as Mavericks, out on our own relying solely upon our relationship with Him.  Don’t get me wrong, there are times when He is the only thing we have, and we DO rely solely on Him, but I don’t think Jesus wanted or expected us to abandon “Religion”.

Jesus wanted us to work together.  He wanted us to love one another and work together to accomplish His purpose.  He wanted us to experience all of the positives of having a "Religion" that was based upon the common solid foundation of Himself.

That said, I agree that some rely on their “Religiosity” and have no relationship with Jesus, and there are some “Religions” that have encouraged this reliance on keeping the “Religious Rules” to be saved.  Both are wrong.  Period.  There are no rules that can be kept by which you can Earn your way to heaven, but let’s not throw away the baby with the bathwater.

Until His Work in me is Complete…
Paul



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