What is religion? That’s a hard one to answer because people define it in so many ways. If you look at Dictionary.com’s definitions, you’ll see a human-based system of doing what is defined in the particular religion as good. That’s religion. It’s what we got when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We get to know for ourselves. We get to know good and evil; choose the good, and reject the evil — all according to the particular set of parameters set up by our particular religion. And they’re all the same, deep down, right? Well, actually, yes. Religions all, at bottom, give us a set of rules we must follow in order to be accepted by our particular goddesses and/or gods (or god).
God had something better for us — something we didn’t choose. What would have happened (have you ever wondered?) if we had chosen the other tree? The Tree of Life? What if we had chosen to live by the life of God instead of choosing to live independently, to live our own lives and to find a way to please God on our own? To me, that’s the difference between religion and living by Jesus. If we live by Jesus’ life, we will fulfill the Law as He did and does. We won’t be perfect, but as He is matured in us; as we reflect Him from glory to glory as He changes us, we will fulfill all the law and the prophets in the law of love just as He said.
So, do we need religion? Do we need an institution? No. We need our brothers and sisters in Jesus. He told us that all men would know that we’re His disciples if we have love one for another. Today it’s hard for folks to learn how to do that. We’re used to sitting in rows, singing when told to, and receiving the nourishment offered by an overworked pastor giving us the result of his quiet time with God. What if we had our own line with God? What if we went to Him and got our own portion to share with our brothers and sisters? What if the priests — all of them — functioned as priests in bringing one another Christ?
There’s a popular Christian tune entitled, “What if His People Prayed?” I’d like to answer that with another; “What if His People Obeyed?” What if we obeyed those things He commanded and commands us to do? Jesus told the people that the work of God was to believe in the One He sent. He told His disciples (and they told us) to love one another that the world might know that He was sent by the Father. Have we done those two things? Do we really eat, take all of our nourishment, from the Tree of Life? Or are we still hooked on our own knowledge? Do we take our orders day by day from our King, or do we just do what we think is best? Do we have religion, or do we have Life?
For a balancing facet of this intricate gemstone we call Christ, please see my friend David Flowers’ latest blog post, Walking the Line: Staying Out of Theological Ditches.