Call Me Crazy, But I like Religious People

Posted: April 6, 2011 in Inspirational

It has become quite fashionable these days to claim to love God, but hate religion. In fact, one of the surest ways to elicit applause in the middle of a message is for a preacher to declare something has been done because of “religion” instead of relationship. While I understand (and even agree with) the sentiment behind such statements, I must invoke the great philosopher Cool Hand Luke, who said “what we have here is a failure to communicate.” It seems religion has become the label du jour for the archaic, irrelevant, and sometimes downright ridiculous things that are done in the name of God. The term religious has come to symbolize the critical and inflexible attitudes of misled people who happen to attend church. Every school, workplace, or organization of which I have ever been a part has had some people who “get it” and others who seem to just not quite understand the bigger picture. The church is no different… some get it, some need to catch a ride on the clue bus. The thing is, the ones who don’t get it shouldn’t be labeled as “religious.” They are, in actuality, the absolute antithesis of religious. Jesus founded the concept of the church, so I’m going to defer to His brother, James, for the definition of religion. In James 1:27, he writes: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” Read through that verse again and stop me when you get to the part of that definition of religion that you hate. In fact, when was the last time you heard anyone criticize the church for caring for too many people in need, feeding too many orphans, loving the unloved too deeply, or refusing to be corrupted into moral bankruptcy? I actually think that the world would be a great place if it was chock full of radically religious people. Those people would be staffing orphanages and nursing homes, visiting lonely people, caring for society’s castoffs, and living with absolute integrity in all of their business dealings and every other area of life. Nowhere in the job description of religion do we find the positions of judge, critic, or manipulator. Rather, religious people would be meeting the most needy people right where they live. Two different times in the book of Matthew, Jesus answers the Pharisees by quoting the same Scripture from the book of Hosea. The Pharisees were the self-appointed, self-righteous critics of Jesus’ day, and more than once they criticized Jesus for associating with sinners… in essence, not being “religious” enough. In Matthew 9 and again in Matthew 12, Jesus corrected them by telling them to go learn the meaning of Hosea 6:6, which says, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” While sacrifice was indeed a part of the religious system of that day, Jesus was saying that these Pharisees were missing the heart of the matter. He was declaring that people, not performance of certain rituals, were the point of His coming… and the point of religion. Think about it: wouldn’t the world be better if we were all a little more religious?

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