That’s right. I love religion, and I hate religion.
One of the first sayings (not the first, mind you) I learned as a young believer in Christ was “I hate religion” because “It’s a relationship!” Everyone knows that religion is a trap that constrains all who practice from truly knowing God! Everyone knows that religion causes wars and fights and church splits and all sorts of mayhem!
We hear on our TV’s and read in our newspapers and magazines that religion is what has caused all of the travesties in our world. We are raised in churches being told that religion separates us from our relationship with God. (For the record, I know this is not universally true … just go with me on this!) James even tells us that religion is worthless! (Yep, I heard this teaching in a church, and that more than once and more than one church!)
So, then, what about what James said next?
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27, NIV)
Wait. Religion can be good? Okay, but only one biblical reference does not really mean anything does it?
How about Paul?
“But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God” (1 Timothy 5:4, NIV).
Huh. That sounded pretty familiar.
Our friends at Merriam-Webster have a few words to throw in, too:
“(1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance”
“a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.”
Yeah, I left out some other definitions, but this is my blog and I am trying to make a point!
I really like that second definition mixed with the first part of the first definition. Allow me to reword it:
“Religion is serving and worshiping God through a set or system of attitudes, beliefs, and practices.”
Makes religion sound a whole lot better, doesn’t it?
We can argue that our attitudes and beliefs and practices can interfere with our relationship with God (“what I hate I do“), and in the greater context of the whole Bible those references above and multitude others imply that to be true. We can argue that it is too easy for people to focus on following the rules or traditions or practices instead of for Whom we are doing them all.
I will use an analogy:
We sit down to play chess. For it to be enjoyable, we follow certain rules. Our pieces can only move in certain ways. We have to take turns moving our pieces. There is either a stalemate or one winner and one loser. If we change the rules or disregard them completely, then it is really a game of “I Win” and the winner is whoever can fight or argue better!
Or how about driving. We can drive however we want when we are behind the wheel; but if we want to avoid injury, loss of property/time/money, or even loss of life, then we have to follow certain safe driving rules and laws.
I hate religion because so many people get caught up in religion instead of following God.
I love religion because it helps me grow in my relationship with my Lord and Savior. If there were not certain guidelines for me to follow, I could still be heading straight for Hell thinking I am doing alright. If I have guidelines and rules to help me, we can help each other stay on the path to righteousness and grow closer to Our Lord and Savior.
What do you think? Have I gone of the deep end? Have I nailed it? Have I had too much time on my hands and picked this to pieces?
Grace and Peace!