The Christian religion is getting a bad name lately. Between slogans like “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship”, YouTube video called “Why I Hate Religion” and songs like “More Like Falling In Love”, or Mark Driscoll’s ridicule of pastors in England wearing robes when they preach (a cultural sign of respect there), you would think the Christian religion was a bad thing. But I disagree. Not only that, the bashing of the word religion, even though people mean well, is causing problems and furthering the cause of people who don’t mean well.
If some of the well meaning people bashing religion, like the man on the video, substituted the words hypocrisy, legalism, false religion, or a religious spirit, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. What he’s saying about religion better describes those words, not religion.
Let’s look at the definition of true religion from two reliable sources: Merriman Webster’s Dictionary and the Bible.
Merriman Websters Dictionary 11th Collegiate Edition:
1. a. The service or worship of God or the supernatural. b. commitment or devotion to religious faith or service.
2. A personal set or institutionalized system of religious beliefs and practices.
3. A cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.
The Holy Bible, New King James Version Edition: Third Copyright: Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
James 1:26-27(NKJV) If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. 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 doesn’t sound like a bad thing to me. Religion isn’t legalism or hypocrisy, and it’s not fear of change. It is fearing God, following Christ, obeying His Word, and loving our neighbors by showing them compassion.
The problem with bashing the word religion is that people take it too far. Some, like the YouTube video, use the word wrongly but mean hypocrisy and false religion. But because people define the word religion differently, others use the bashing of the word to justify being hearers of the Word and not doers. They consider themselves Christians but not religious because they have warm fuzzies about Jesus but don’t feel they have to do what He says. They don’t go to church, they don’t obey God’s Word, and they do whatever makes them happy with the attitude that God understands, and He wouldn’t really send anyone to Hell or discipline His children. Basically they make God into their own image – a God they can handle.
But Scripture says that the fear of God, the creator of the universe and the One who has power over everything including life and death, is the beginning of Wisdom. God isn’t a Santa or a fairy godmother who gives us what we want when we want it. He is God Almighty who loved us enough to save us from our sin and our selfishness. The only proper response to that is to follow and obey Him and to give Him our allegiance and our very lives to do with what He wants.
Jeremiah 32:40(NKJV) And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.
Proverbs 9:10(NKJV) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Romans 12:1-2(NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Now compare this to the song lyrics for “More Like Falling In Love” by Jason Gray
Its gotta be More like falling in love Than something to believe in More like losing my heart Than giving my allegiance…
Really! That sounds more like warm fuzzies and an emotional high than the love for God the Bible describes. If I love God with all my heart, I will believe in every word the Bible says and I will obey my God. I will give Him my total allegiance or it’s just emotionalism and not true religion.
I’ve also read some websites and movements that imply Christians are too hung up on the Bible, that we worship it when we take it too literally. God’s Word was meant to be taken completely in context with every other verse and literally.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
When we don’t take God’s Word literally, we start believing lies like God understands our failings and mistakes and won’t really send sinners to Hell. If there’s no Hell to be saved from, then why did Christ die a horrible death on the cross to be punished for our sins? We have to accept that gift. We have a choice. Also we need to study God’s Word, not just Christian books. Most Christian books are good, but they aren’t a substitute for the Bible.
Then there’s those who don’t go to church and pray at home. They don’t like religion, so they avoid it because at some point they were hurt. We’ve all been hurt, a lot of us by people who call themselves Christians but don’t practice true religion. But that’s no reason to withdraw from God’s people. It’s an excuse to do things our way instead of God’s way. If we don’t fellowship with other believers, we can’t receive encouragement and instruction from them, and we can’t be an encouragement to them. Listening to television preachers doesn’t substitute for it because you can’t fellowship with or serve a television.
Hebrews 10:23-25(NKJV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
I don’t want to practice false religion, hypocrisy, or legalism, but I do want to be religious. I’m giving my allegiance and obedience to Christ as much as I can. I’m following hard after Him and His Word. I want to be with God’s people and show others that He’s my Lord by the way I treat them. I’m a Christian, a Christ follower, and a religious person.
How about you? Do you agree with me? Are you a religious person?
Well said, Tamera.
I just posted this morning about inoculated Christians who have been vaccinated with a dead religion. It tends to make them immune to true religion as well as giving them the disease of religion. This situation is epidemic (as I am sure you know). In many areas there is no viable church actually preaching the Gospel anymore. http://tinyurl.com/7z633hu
While I disagree with many of your points, I do agree that the most important thing is to get someone to accept Jesus as their savior. Thanks for commenting.
The word “Religion” is one of those words that have become non-politically correct or taboo. Even in my good Bible believing church, the preachers tend to demean, and try to distance our faith from the word Religion. It always makes me uncomfortable. I get this deep in the gut feeling that Religion should not be a dirty word.
Christian leaders as well as all of us Christians in general, if we are truthful, tend to cower away from aligning ourselves as being religious, as being apart of a religion. As you have written above, Religion, defined by Webster’s is an institutionalized system of beliefs and practices, among other definitions you list with basically the same meaning. That all-inclusive definition links Christianity to all other forms of institutionalized systems of beliefs and practices — namely all religions.
The media, Atheists, and anyone who wishes to portray Christians in a bad light do so quickly and easily by lumping Christianity with all other religions with the use of the simple word, Religion.
We are living in a time where there are many false religions; by their fruits, you will know them, (and the truth shall set you free.) We also live among many scoffers, and those who would mock our beliefs. They will always be here. There are bigger battles to be one — souls to be won, and when we struggle with the small issues, it exposes a weakness. No Christian wants to be identified with extreme — as far from Christianity as you can get systems of religion, (for lack of a better way to put), by a loosely given term.
I’m just saying, we should not get hung-up on a definition. Jesus wasn’t afraid to use the word Religion, so why should we?
I think you’re right. PC may have a lot to do with this.
Great post. As you pointed out with Jason Gray’s song, many in the modern church prefer to define being Christian as, like you said, “the warm fuzzies” or positive thinking on steroids. In a effort to make religion more palatable to those who don’t want to give up their self will, the message of giving up all to follow Christ has been watered down. God has become some sort of cosmic ATM: Do good works, claim only positive beliefs about yourself and “presto” out pops God’s blessings of a happy and prosperous life. In truth, the word religious means “external worship” in the original Greek, and our worship is anything we do that is in obedience to His word. Based on that definition, yes, I am a religious person.