A new subject or passage each week for all to discuss.
User avatar
Mr. Normal
Posts: 1096
Joined: Thu Feb 07, 2008 8:06 pm
Location: Arkansas
United States of America




Post by millipede »

For many people, the word "religion" has become taboo... scary even. But, should it be?
I see so many Christians today resisting the idea of religion. But should they? This is not a very simple topic as there is reason why people think this way today.

Religion can be dangerous and, it can hurt people. But, the flaws that go along with religion, aren't religion. For the most part, if you're ever hurt by religion... you're actually hurt by people or potentially flawed teachings from people. Not from religion... depending on how you define religion I suppose.
Some people have this negative connotation for the word religion that's based completely on just the "rules" within the religion. Is that what religion is though? Rules?

Do a search online and you'll find the definition of the word religion is complex... it consists of several ideas such as:
Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
(from wordnik)

Is that all bad? Some of it COULD be... and some of it, absolutely not.
Belief in a god. By definition, that's part of what religion is.
Having a set of beliefs and "rules" is part of what religion is.

Basically, if you believe in God and believe there are things out there you should and shouldn't do... you're religious. You ARE part of a religion.
Being someone that believes in God and believes that Jesus died for my sins... that makes me a Christian... and, Christianity is indeed a religion.
Why would I fight/resist that idea?

The answer to that is also not exactly simple but, isn't too hard to figure out. There's at least two very good reasons why Christians today fear the word religion...
1. In the bible itself, it warns against people that live by rules alone. The pharisees and Sadducees you often read about. They were a snobby group that had a STRONG and FIRM set of rules that were difficult to follow and, those rules were their focus, 100%. Somehow the relationship with God was lost on them.
2. The world... the world hates Christianity. Many atheists today are people that grew up with some exposure to Christianity that left them hurt and frustrated. I think many of us could write some paragraphs on this one...... because many people have been hurt... not by religion but in the name of religion. Because the atheists have painted this ugly picture of religion, many Christians feel for them and develop the same bitterness.

Because of those dangers, Christians today often flee from the word. Some choose to not ever go to church again and consider themselves the whole body of Christ, all alone at home.

Let's take a look at what the bible teaches us...
I'd be here all day long if I made a list of all the rules that God Himself gave us. There are indeed rules we NEED to live by... for our own good. The ten commandments, for instance, is a list of rules and regulations. People fear religion because of lists of rules that people are supposed to adhere to... mostly because people don't want to be told what to do, or be judged. Judgement is a BIG topic in itself that I wont get into in any depth but... right and wrong DO exist... AND, Christians are supposed to "judge" and, more accurately, correct one another. That is part of "religion" and it's what the bible teaches. Those rules are there for a reason.

The church...
Psalm 111:1
Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.
Psalm 122:1
I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.

In the days of David, they didn't have a Christian church but, they had temples where people were taught. Here David talks(or sings) about the house(a physical place) of the Lord and assemblies and congregations.

Hebrews 10
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Here it not only talks about meeting together but, even encouraging each other in... deeds... good deeds. The kjv uses the word "works." People resist the idea of "works" but, works are good things... just as long as that's not your "salvation."

Matthew 18:20
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

This is a favorite of many. Some people use this to explain how we don't need church but, as long as 2 or 3 of us are together, we're good. It is true that God said when just a few meet together in His name, He is there. But, can 2 or 3 meeting together replace an actual church? Maybe, sometimes, just maybe... but typically, no. It really depends on what is and can be accomplished in such meetings. Many people have bible studies that are almost like clubs... a place to just hang out, read a few verses, and feel good about yourself. Some people can have some DEEP teachings in such small meetings that would blow away anything taught at a big church. I can't say that's the norm though.

Hebrews 13:17
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

The ESV used the word leaders. Obey your leaders because they're watching over you? What leaders? If you're not part of an actual church, how do you have any leaders?

1 Corinthians 14:26
How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

In the NIV, this whole section is labeled as being instruction for ORDER in worship. A set of rules to prevent chaos perhaps. Further in it has the bit about women remaining silent in church. I wont tough on that subject but bring it up as an explanation that the bible actually teaches us about structure and church... and for good reason. Without some set of "rules" for a church service, there would be chaos.

James 5:14
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

If your one that refuses to go to church, what elders are you going to call to and have pray over you when you are sick? Elders being part of a church structure... was, is, and should be part of how God's body works.

Acts 14:23
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

Another one about elders. Here they mention actually ordaining elders in churches. how does that happen when you're avoiding "organized" religion?

1 Timothy 5:17
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

More about elders? And, elders that do what? RULE well. How do we have elders and elders that rule and teach if we don't have some form of organization and meeting within the church?

1 Corinthians 12:12
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

I think this is a verse that one might use to support the resistance to church. We are all members of one body. That church building isn't the body, we are... right? Sort of. A building sure is just a building. But, this "one body" that we're a part of... if we're not joining with it, and often, are we actually part of that body? Or are we just a hand or foot hobbling around on our own? How can we work together as ONE body if we're not meeting together?

Acts 2:
42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

esv titles this section "fellowship of believers." How often does the bible demand that we continue to fellowship with one another... here we discuss doctrine...(another scary word), prayer... all that believed were together and had all things in common? Think about that. When we separate ourselves from the church and don't meet regularly, we're left alone and without support.

1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

IF we walk in the light... we have fellowship with one another... Does this mean that if we don't have fellowship with one another we walk in darkness? I feel I could do a little yes and no here. We are, as a church and as individuals, supposed to be a light to this world. But, how bright can we be if we walk alone through the darkness?

Ephesians 4:
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

pastors and teachers... for the edifying of the body.

1 Corinthians 14:19
Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.


Acts 11:
25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:
26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

ASSEMBLED... Church... taught much people? How else can people be taught?

Acts 12:5
Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

The church prayed for Peter. The church that was organized and able to pray for Peter because they were organized. How many prayer chains have I prayed over or been prayed over by because of churches having them int the first place...

James 5:16
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

I think this is where the catholic church gets their ideas for a confessional... an idea that I think is GREAT but, not used properly today. I think catholics go and unload their guilt(even when they don't feel guilty) so they can walk around feeling good and forgiven. As if sharing your sins anonymously with a priest cleanses them. The idea of confession here, it even explains, is so that we may be healed. not healed from the consequences from sin(Jesus did that) but to be healed from sin. We are to confess to one another so others can hold us accountable and help us through our struggles. This could be a whole new topic but I bring it up as something that cannot be accomplished with ease without meeting together as a body.

As you can see, there are lots(I left a LOT out) of passages that talk about the church and its purpose.
And I share these things to emphasize the church(building) and how important it actually is. I do this because, even though some that speak out against the idea of religion still go to church... that whole idea of speaking out against religion is joining forces with the atheists that are speaking out against religion. If you have the atheists saying bad things about religion... and then you have the believers speaking out against religion... it really makes it that much more difficult to reach people and bring people to the church. And, it actually drives even more Christians away from the church. When we EMPHASIZE all that's wrong with religion, we end up completely condemning religion... but if you believe, if you have ANY rules at all, you are IN a religion. By definition.
We, as believers, don't want to associate ourselves with the bad connotations the word religion has developed. We want to feel superior and separate from those bad things so, we join in to criticize and even attack the whole idea of religion. We use phrases like "it's not religion, it's a relationship..."
That sounds righteous I guess?
While the word religion makes people think of bad things... the word itself hasn't changed. If you're a Christian, you're part of the Christian RELIGION. You can't get around that...

Wait a second... why am I discussing this in such depth? Why does it matter?
Well I already mentioned some of the dangers. I honestly believe that we can hurt our "religion" and others when we resist the use of that word SO much that we attack it and everything it embodies.
Like so many other things in this world today, we have these ideas that if one thing is bad, we have to do the opposite to be right.
Preachers that teach rules rules rules and nothing else harm those they're teaching... but, it is just as much a disservice when preachers teach love love love and nothing else. There is a middle ground and, it is still, by definition, religion. We need to focus on Jesus and God's love, forgiveness, loving each other, etc... but, in order to fully do that, we would then live by those rules that so many want to avoid. There's a balancing act in there. One without the other and you have false religion.
More of why I'm bothered by the whole anti-religion movement within the body of Christ...
This is part of the lyrics of a song by a singer named Blanca...

"Spent my life trying
To keep all the rules
Now I know it's about what he's already done
Not about what I think that I gotta do

I don't need no stained glass
To be washed in his blood
I don't need no perfect, put together pretty words
To be enough, no
I want Jesus and his real love
Something that I crave deep inside of my bones
So you can leave your religion at home"

You can feel the hurt and bitterness that many Christians AND atheists might feel. And, her words aren't necessarily 100% wrong. People have been caught up in the "rules" of religion, thinking it's what they NEEDED to do in order to be saved. But our religion doesn't actually teach that. Some people have taught that and, many people INTERPRET what they're taught in that way. Many people FEEL guilt because of sin and try to solve that by feeling they have to save themselves by their own behaviors.
religion didn't do this to them. This is something that happens in our own brains sometimes... and, often enough, by parents that guilt their children. But again, the Christian faith, or religion, doesn't do this to its believers.

Again, danger... spent my life trying to keep all the rules? And now I know it's about what he's already done... Those are good words... UNLESS we focus ONLY on what God has done and NOTHING else... which, sadly today, IS what happens to people.

She sings that she doesn't need no stained glass(meaning a church) to be washed in his blood. Another true statement... But, that emphasis makes a lot of people think they don't need church at all. Church, the building, doesn't save you from your sins... but, you still NEED it in your life. In fact, it can actually save. Where else are most people led, fed, taught, etc?
MOST of the Christians I know today that have left the church have all but stopped believing. They've stopped striving to be holy(something God demands of us), stopped reading God's word, stopped fellowshiping with other believers... I have watched this happen to friends and family.

"you can leave your religion at home?"
again, I can feel the hurt and bitterness in those words. And those words tear down more than they build up. They carry a tone of judgement in an effort to not feel judged.
Religion isn't bad UNLESS... those individual steps and practices and such replace your relationship with God, and the grace He poured out on us.

John 14:15
If ye love me, keep my commandments.

So, there isn't an actual "commandment" in the bible that says "thou shalt go to church." That's true. But, if we LOVE Jesus... what we do and how we act should reflect that. We should want desperately to know Him better... We should want to follow the teachings of the bible... we should want to fellowship with other believers just as we are CALLED to do. Those things are all, by definition, exactly what religion is.

The word religion, today, has developed these negative connotations that are simply not true. Everything bad that atheists believe about religion... and all the things that still believing believers believe about religion(that's a lot of believing for one sentence) to be hurtful and wrong... are NOT part of religion. They're a part of the misuses of religion.
My "religion" consists of or dictates that _________ and those things are good and true and just and FROM GOD....... literally. It's only when the religion is distorted and used incorrectly to force people to behave certain ways and when the focus is on our actions and not our salvation that it becomes wrong.
We're saved by grace, not by works... but grace without works is... well...

James 2
14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless d ? 21Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

I think that sums it up. For many people today, trying to avoid the danger of living by works leads people to try and live by faith alone. This passage says that even the demons believe... so, are we really saved by our belief? Yet even Christians today, in the name of not being "religious" try and live by faith alone. Some churches, today, even teach that... Jesus... Jesus... He loves you... that's all. Have a nice day.

Sorry for the rambling here. This was long. I have a lot of passionate thoughts on this subject. I've seen too many Christians attack the idea of religion and then, just go on living as the world does... having faith and no action.
Jesus said, as I cited above, that if we love Him, we'll keep His commands.
Pick up your bible... look at it... feel it... weigh it... count the pages... Is that ENTIRE book all just to tell you that Jesus died for you, now go have a good time and don't change anything? That book represents religion. Some Christians HATE that word because there are many religions out there and, we believe the bible to be the only true belief system. but, by definition, it will always remain a religion.
Yes, I have a personal relationship with Christ... that's not a bad thing to say and feel and live by. But you are part of the body of Christ. You NEED to be part of that body. And that body, that belief SYSTEM that does have its own set of rules and such... is a religion.

Religion itself is not bad. People fail... people always fail. And, religion and religious people don't actually fail any more than the rest of the world. It only stings more coming from religion or religious people because religion is SUPPOSED to be a safe place. And religious people are supposed to be "better" than everyone else. So our shortcomings are judged more harshly.
It's difficult to not go back to discussing the word judgement because I believe that judgement is where a lot of this bitterness and frustration comes from... for atheists and many Christians. "Leave your religion at home" sounds like something you'd say to deflect judgement or correction. How many Christians have I heard use the phrase "don't throw stones..." In the name of not letting rules be our religion, many people then reject ALL rules associated with it. Don't tell me how to live, right? that's the attitude carried by the world and it has infiltrated the church.
If you and I are both believers and one of us is living in sin, it is the responsibility of the other to correct the other, in a useful way. Not to say "hey, you're sinning, you can't be a Christian(heard to many people dictate who is and who isn't a Christian)" but to walk through the struggle with that person... to correct and teach for their own good. That's in the bible.
But human nature, and the world today, teach against that idea. And from that, we develop hurt. It hurts me for someone to tell me I did something wrong. So... it must be wrong for them to tell me that, right? Nope.
This is where the anti-religion movement leads. To a belief system that is inactive and ineffective and disobedient.

The living by works form of religion is NOT the definition of religion... it's a false teaching or religion. In order to avoid or oppose such teaching, the solution is not to run to the extreme opposite where we denounce religion and attempt to live by our belief in God alone.
I hope all that makes sense... and is understandable why this topic matters so much to me.
Religion does not have to be an ugly word.

"But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:"
- Job 12:7