Before we hammer religion too hard, we should remember the words of James:
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
This scripture tells us that true religion – pure and undefiled religion – is a beautiful thing. It’s the kind of thing that causes us to look after the unloved and the neglected. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like love to me; it sounds a lot like Jesus.
But if there is true religion, it follows that there can also be false religion. As good as religion can be, it can also be very, very bad.
But what makes good religion good and bad religion bad?
I propose that the difference is really quite simple: good religion is all about Jesus, whereas bad religion is all about anything but Jesus. You could say that bad religion is antichrist.
Of course, bad religion might still use the language of Jesus and the kingdom. When you reduce it to mere words and doctrines, it might sound like true religion. But this is only in the same way that a fake Gucci handbag looks like the real thing. When you get up close and put it to the test, the stitching starts to come apart and it’s shown up pretty quickly for what it is: a cheap imitation of the genuine article.
Jesus and his way are the real deal, the genuine article. Anything less is counterfeit.
Where bad religion brings condemnation, Jesus brings freedom from guilt.
Where bad religion brings division, Jesus brings reconciliation.
Where bad religion brings anxiety, Jesus brings shalom.
Where bad religion oppresses and coerces, Jesus empowers and releases.
Where bad religion says “Stone the sinner!”, Jesus asks “Where are your accusers?”
Remember, it’s all about Jesus. If your religion looks, sounds, smells, tastes and lives like Jesus, have at it. Otherwise, it’s a fake and you need to get rid of it. After all, who wants a cheap imitation when you can have the genuine article?
[ Image: Rebecca F ]