Religion as a Gift

© 2018 Cliff Richardson

Is religion really the problem?

I’ve heard a number of leaders in Christendom say

It’s not about religion, but a relationship.

Jesus didn’t start a religion, he started a movement.

Yet, the Old Covenant establishes a religion complete with rituals, sacred objects, sacred spaces and sacred days. Jesus didn’t denounce that religion. He denounced the leadership and the improper use of that religion.

Jesus fulfilled the requirements of that religion, but didn’t abolish it (Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus shows us the true meaning of grace by dying for our sins to fulfill that law. He reminds us that we are fellow travelers through this life of sin and we should bear one another’s burdens.

There’s a connection between the religion and the relationship.

After the resurrection and before Jesus ascended to heaven he told his followers, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all men, baptizing them in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit. Teaching them all I have commanded you.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a religion.

Jesus also makes interesting statements like, “Sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath. (Mark 2:23-28 ESV)”

Religion is the means God uses to guide our relationship with Him.

After all, He did call us sheep and sheep are prone to wander. We humans make up our own rules and make up ideas about God. Doesn’t it make sense, given our propensity for obfuscation, that God would establish a right and proper relationship with Him?

Like everything else man touches, religion is perverted and turned into the primary goal.  That’s wrong.  That’s loving the gift more than the giver. I cringe every time I hear a church leader talk about the “unchurched” … as if our mission is to “church” people.

Throwing religion under the theological bus isn’t the answer.

Imagine saying that about a Christmas present.

“We misused the gift you gave us, so we threw it out and would prefer you not give us another one and furthermore we’re going to make up stories about you and your gifts.”

That’s rude.

Instead, let’s use religion as intended: to guard the teachings of Christ, to guide us in this life, to grow us in faith in Christ, to make disciples of Christ, to commune with fellow believers … I’m sure there’s more.

Christ is the object of our faith, the creator of all things, and the One who gives us religion. And He is the most important aspect of all those things.  When Christ gives us a gift it’s not up to us to determine whether to use it, or even how to use it. Rather, it is our privilege to use that gift to bring Him glory.

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