Wednesday, January 9, 2013
There is a tendency in our day, though I expect it is not new, to be against what is often referred to as "organized religion." While it is likely that the "organized religion" we are against and the religion which James commends to us are very different, something went wrong if the Christian religion is counted as an "organized religion." Some have made this point by saying that "Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship," and, while it is true that Christianity has a once-broken-but-fixed relationship at its root--the relationship between a sinner and God--this does not necessarily make it a non-religion.
If religion were defined as a system of rules to allow us to approach God, and many of what are commonly referred to as religions do fit that definition, then it would be easy to imagine a religion that had a relationship at its core, yet that relationship be set up around various rules which the inferior human would have to keep to stay in the gods' good graces. The Greeks could have described their religion as a relationship! Yet this is not what our God tells us religion is supposed to be, rather, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27.
What, then, is religion generally? It is not, necessarily, a system of rules to get us to God, rather I would suggest that it is the outworking of beliefs about the ultimate nature of reality (i.e., the existence and nature of God or god's or what-have-you, what our possible relationships to such are, etc.) as we live. Thus, many religions have beliefs about what the ultimate nature of reality is that leads them to try to be as good as they can be, in order that their god might have favor on them and allow them into a heaven or some such. We, however, hold beliefs that cause us not to do things out of fear, but from a desire to be like the God we serve, for we see the beauty of what he does, and so desire that others might also see that beauty, and in so seeing, that they might glorify God. Thus, as Christ visited us--widows and orphans all, in that we had no one who might help us in our distress--so we visit those in like position, that we might recognize what need we likewise had for a savior from sin. For our savior, having much greater power than we, not only became God with us, but even became our sacrificial lamb, saving us from that death which we deserved since "the wages of sin is death," and thereby gaining for us that free gift of eternal life. In this way he made the church no longer a widow, for she is the bride of Christ, and in this way he made each of us who believe no longer orphans, but each adopted as heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.
Posted by Ben Bush at 10:20 PM