Monday, 20 February 2012

Do you hate religion?

When I first saw this video in January it was at about 300 views but as of today had over 19 million views and has kicked up a storm of debate from both Christian and secular circles. It is a message you wouldn't expect to hear from a Christian and some argue that it is contradictory to say you hate religion but practise Christianity. The point may be valid but I'm not here to argue semantics but to take a look at the substance of this spoken word piece.

Let us start with the dictionary definition of religion from
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
That's the wide definition and probably the church would fit that description. However in the context of the video I suspect he's probably targeting instutionalised Christianity which has a lot to do with man made structures and rules than the teachings of Jesus Christ. Personally I think many have been wrong to think of this as an attack on the church, rather we should use it as food for thought and ask ourselves whether what is there today is the church that Jesus built or it has been diluted by man's intervention over the ages. To understand how the church got to where it is to day you'll have to look at it's about 2000 history. Every movement and denomination in existence today can be traced to some event or person and after that a system was formed around it. For instance the Lutheran church traces its roots to Martin Luther, Methodists to John Wesley, Anglicans to to King James etc. However it is interesting to note that these people were not necessarily out to form a denomination. For instance John Wesley is believed to have said that he died an Anglican though his followers ended up founding the Methodist church. I'm not out to discuss ecumenical unity and church history but just wanted to shed a little light on how we got here.

He starts off by saying that Jesus came to abolish religion which is debatable as he did not actually utter those words in fact He said that He did not come to abolish the law( The Jewish system) but to fulfill it. Matthew 5:17. However immediately after that in verse 20 "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven"

In his time on Earth Jesus Christ had many run ins with the Pharisees and scribes and confronted them frequently on their hypocrisy. They were called whited sepulchres, a brood of vipers, the blind leading the blind among other things. Most significantly they were accused of "straining a gnat to swallow a camel" That they dwell on certain aspects of the law and "neglected  the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith" - Matthew 23:23. In other words they were a bunch of self righteous hypocrites whot thought they were so great but were so far from being what God wanted them to be.

The time of Christ is quite different from other times in the history of the nation of Israel. The first commandment given to Moses was "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:3. This was a law that was broken over and over again throughout the history with dire consequences for them. They ended up receiving numerous punishments for this disobedience and every time God told them if they repent, they'll be forgiven. So they were not exactly model children as they kept being led astray by the false religion of their neighbours and bowed down to their idols. Contrast this with the time of Christ when there isn't mention of idolatry, the Jews are under Roman occupation but it looks like they have left their rebellious ways behind. Everything looks great but another form of false religion has crept in exemplified by the Pharisees and scribes. One based on man made rules and pride as opposed to God's perfect laws, one where they were more interested in doing things for show and forgetting what matters most is the people of God. They were blind and making their followers "twice the sons of hell"

That right there is the folly of man made religious practices without basis in the word of God. a place where we even me included easily fall. Focus on being holier than thou as opposed to being holy as the Lord our God is holy 1 Peter 1:16. Sometimes I think people speak ill of Christianity because of us and how we frequently fall short. Christ's message was a simple one unlike the Torah which covered the fist 5 books of the old testament he rolled it all into one statement - Matthew 22:37-38 " Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." It pretty much starts from there though we as humans being creatures of habit tend to add extra layers on top of what Christ has already done for us perhaps so that we can feel better- I don't know. Like the guy in the video says religion says do yet Jesus says done.

We have a long way to go but the most important thing to remember is to look to Christ the author and finisher of or faith. It's not all about buildings and elaborate robes as it was in the olden days bu the kingdom of God is in us Luke 17:21. As much as there is so much evil in the world the love of God abounds and his arms are always open wide to forgive