You know, there's this one word out in the church and out in the world, but depending on what stream you're a part of, has different meanings. Good or bad, we hear the word and all pre-conceived notions or past experiences come flooding into our mind like a tsunami. Doesn't matter what its true definition is, or what it even means to the individual you're talking to, whatever definition you've given it in your mind....it's probably there to stay without much hope of changing. Why? Have you figured out what I'm even talking about?
Religion. Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. And truth is, the world and the church equally hate religion with a passion.
Ever had someone call you religious? I cringed inside one day as my boss asked me, "Crystal, you're a religious person. You should meet so and so, cause they're religious too. I bet you'd have alot to talk about." Oh great. You know what I'm thinking? Yippee, now I get to talk to someone who is as opinionated as I am! For some reason the rest of the world sees religious folk as a people group more than a person who lives out their values. It's less about living out what you preach, and more about always having the right answers, usually involving some sort of condescending way of talking to "non-religious" folk.
And there's the Church. I don't think I've ever heard anyone in the church call themselves religious. It's kind of interesting that, though the rest of the world would call us religious, we would never call ourselves that. because, we too, have a stigma with religion. Was it not the Pharisees, the religious folk, that we're rebuked by Jesus because of there religious vows and lack of love? Well, who wants to be that? Not I. I'm not religious. In fact, some of us we're hurt by religion. Know any Christian out there that refuses to even go to church because of one incident that happened that turned them off? or maybe someone said something offensive? or maybe they felt judged.....either way, why go to church with a bunch of religious folk when I ain't? Right?
Not quite. You see, both are wrong.
If the definition of religion is a "noun", meaning "organized religious belief" than shouldn't we correctly put religion back in its place? Should the believer, not only live out what they say, but also move in a spirit of love so that our relationship with Jesus (which is a verb, not a noun) not be seen as good or bad religion? I know it is inevitable that some will always see you as religious, no matter what you do. But should we not be Jesus here on earth today? You know that song, "give me that old time religion....give me that old time religion...." Is that what we really want as the church? Truth is, though some of us would not like to call ourselves religious....some of us ARE....and we're stuck. We're stuck in the old. We're stuck in a box. And though we'd never tell anyone we really fear man more than God, we adapt to how things worked in the past, using the same ways of worship, same ways of reaching people, same ways of praying, same ways of doing ministry. but I know some are dying inside. There's a BIG "IF" in their mind, wondering if there really is more to God than what they're experiencing.
So why do we like to institutionalize God? - Both the unchurched and the churched. Because we can then remain comfortable. For the unchurched, they can do what they want with no consequences. If I put God in a religious box than I can sub-compartmentalize Him. If He is not real in my head than He's not real at all. Thats why preaching religion to someone, who couldn't care less about it, just won't work. It means absolutely nothing to them. On the other hand, being in the church, we probably know how to institutionalize God better than anyone. Isn't this why most of our American churches have become so ingrown? It's about me, me, ME! What
can I get from church? But Jesus said come with your gift so that you can give give give. So, if we don't get what we want on Sunday morning, we stop going. Who wants to be a part of a fellowship that doesn't meet my needs? because isn't THAT what God is suppose to do?.....meet all my needs? Yep, we're a bunch a chicks sitting there pecking at the leaders, saying "feed me, feed me, FEED ME!"
You know what religion does to us all? Makes us stagnant babies in spirit, unwilling, and too stubborn to change our hearts about anything. You may think I'm just venting, and maybe I am. But with "increased understanding comes increased sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief" (Eccl 1:18) and I'm fed-up, just like Jesus when He over-turned the temple tables in His sorrow. Religion does nothing for no one.
......But Jesus, who IS love, does everything for everyone.