Religion can be simply defined as a set of beliefs, rituals, actions people do in ‘worship’ of their ‘god’ in order to make themselves acceptable to their god. But for many observers, all religion does is cause division, starts wars and incites terrorism. It brainwashes people. It spoils fun. It turns a blind-eye to sexual abuse, and tricks people into giving money, while preachers build their private mansions.
Much of this is undoubtedly true. Many, in the name of religion, have done some if not all of the above. They have hurt others, violated trust and exploited the vulnerable. It’s inexcusable.
It may be cold comfort, but not all religious people or churches within Christianity represent Jesus truly. Those, who know the Bible well, know it condemns deceit, sexual abuse, murder and many atrocities committed ‘in its name’. Jesus is anti-sin filled religion.
In our reflections, we shouldn’t let the negative aspects of religion negate the many ‘positive things’ achieved by religious campaigners. They have set up schools and hospitals. They give to the poor, and care for widows and orphans. This the Bible calls ‘true religion’ (James 1:27). William Wilberforce, a Christian, was at the forefront of the fight to end slavery.
The Bible’s claim is that this is God’s world, and that God has made Jesus Christ ruler or king of this world by raising him from the dead. So Jesus is anti-all other religions that do not worship and follow Him as God, exclusively.
Jesus called the Pharisees, the ‘religious police of his day, ‘hypocrites’, because they did acts that appeared righteous, but inside were full of wickedness. They had dead hearts. Jesus said out of our hearts comes ‘evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, and theft’. Jesus is anti-dead ritual religion.
I could be wrong, but I suspect many of us are anti-religion because we don’t want the demands of institutional religion to interfere with what own heart wants to do. Ironically, many of us who are ‘anti-religion’ have set ourselves up as ‘god’ of our own life, living by our own rules or creed. Jesus is anti-self-centred religion.
The reason why Jesus finds none of these religions acceptable is our rebellious, wicked, selfish sinful hearts. For our actions to be acceptable to Jesus, we need heart surgery. Jesus’ claim is that he’s the only heart surgeon, who through his death and resurrection, can bring the forgiveness of sin that washes our hearts clean, frees us from living selfishly for ourselves and enables lives that love God and others as we should.
Being a Christian, Christian religion, is firstly about repenting and trusting in Jesus to forgive us and cleanse our hearts of sin. Then it is about being more and more like Christ in what we do and say. There is religion that Jesus is against. The question is …“Is he against your religion?” Who is your god? Who do you trust? Are you trusting in Jesus?