Religion vs. Relationship
I have read a few hubs on religion. I am a bit frustrated as many of them deal with which religion is the true religion. Some come to the conclusion that all religions are right. I want to propose to you that no religion is right. This would truly be a better world if we had no religion. It may seem ironic for me to say this as I am a follower of Jesus, or as some call me- a 'Christian'. I can say with confidence that even the Christian religion is not acceptable to God, at least the God we find in the Christian Bible. I want to show you how all religions are anti- God, and how to be in relationship with God, free from religion.
Before we take a look at religion, let's look at Who God is. My reference point, being a follower of Jesus, is the Christian Bible. However, it is not my intention to exclude the writings of spiritual teachers who are influenced by religions, as they do have much insight to add. Mahatma Ghandi gives us much insight into religion and Who God is, though he was not a Christian.
As you study the Bible you discover that God is a Community of Three Persons- The Father, The Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. They are understood to be eternal, all-powerful, self-existing, and having other characteristics pertaining to Divinity. The Bible teaches that They are Three distinct Persons Who have separate thoughts, unique ways of approaching things such as relationship with humanity, how to create and so on. Though They are separate Beings, They are so unified with Each Other that They are seen as being one unit, much like a marriage is between two people, yet being one unit. They depend on Each Other, give Each Other the glory (credit) for accomplishments, and the Son and Holy Spirit have given up Their agendas to fulfill the Father's agenda.
I know that this is a bit simplified, but I do not wish to focus too much on Who God is, but to show this one side of God (a community of Three Persons) in order to show that God rejects religion. I also have not referenced the scriptures to prove that what I am saying is really in the Bible. I just want to give a brief summary on what the Bible teaches Who God is.
God- a community of Three Divine Persons Who live in community with Each Other
How religion is the opposite of God
It is ironic to think that we often link religion to God. Religion is focused on the individual, and on jumping through certain hoops to make God happy. No matter the religion, they have a basic philosophy, which is to do certain things, go through certain ceremonies, and jump through certain hoops to get on God's good side. Often the only difference between religions is that the hoops you jump through are different. Even the Christian religion has it's hoops, such as going to church, giving an offering, and so on. Christians think that if they do this, then they are on God's good list.
Let's remember what the Bible teaches about God- God is a community of Three Persons Who live in perfect relationship with Each Other. That is the opposite of religion. If God is focused on relationship, then why would He create us for the purpose of religious performance? If God is a community of Three Divine Persons, would we not then be created for community?
Have you walked away from religion to discover God?
Religion's relationship to God
Often we mistakenly link religion to God, but let's take a look at what religion's real relationship has been to God. This is not meant to be an exhaustive look at that relationship, but a brief look at three examples that expose religion for what it really is- a system that consumes people and seeks to destroy God.
Following are three examples of how religion has related to God:
1. The Old Testament prophets
In the Old Testament of the Bible, God would raise up certain individuals in the nation of Israel called 'prophets'. They would receive a message from God to Israel and the surrounding nations. The messages often contained warnings of coming judgment. Some of the messages would contain prophecies of future events concerning the nation, Israel and the First and Second coming the Messiah. The problem came when the people of Israel rejected the prophets and would torture them and kill them. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus stated that Jerusalem was guilty for killing the prophets and stoning those that God sent to them. In Luke 11:49-51 Jesus states that the Pharisees (the religious leaders in Israel) were responsible for killing the prophets and apostles (leaders in the church). God sent people to speak his message, and the religious crowd killed them. So, here we see religion being opposed to God.
The Son took on humanity and walked among us approximately 2,000 years ago. According to the Bible He was tortured and nailed to a cross where He died. So, here we see not just a person sent by God, but God Himself in the flesh. You would think that the religious people would accept God Himself, even if they rejected those He sent through the years. But, as the Bible records, the Pharisees and the other religious leaders had Him arrested. After that they falsely accused Him, and had Him put to death on a cross. They even paid money to have Judas (one of Jesus' disciples) lead them to Jesus. So, we see corruption, and we see opposition to God Himself.
3. Religious groups posing as Christianity
At this point we must make a distinction. The distinction is between those who truly desire a relationship with God and with His people, and those who are just part of the system, but putting on the facade of Christianity. There are those who follow Jesus and choose not to get caught up in the religious system.
A couple of examples to show the contrast between religion and those who are genuine followers of Jesus include the Catholic church of the Middle Ages, and modern Christianity. I could show how other religions oppose God's people, but I wish to just speak from my vantage point.
In the Middle Ages the Catholic church ruled the world. The pope was not only the leader of the Catholic church, but also the leader of government. God sent several people throughout that 1,000 year period who opposed the church system and pointed people to God. These were people who lived simply, and lived in community with others. Some of the these were John Huss, Martin Luther, Philipp Melancthon and others. Some of them were excommunicated from the church, while others were burned at the stake. One common thread with them all is that they spoke the truth about religion, and all were opposed by the religious crowd.
Even today God sends people who speak against the religious system, and they are opposed and shut up. I speak from personal example. I used to be a pastor in the religious system. I began to confront the leaders in the denomination that I was in. The things I spoke were clearly taught in the Bible, but I was distanced, talked down to, and eventually pressured out of the church that I pastored by those caught up in religion. I have personally observed others who simply want to live in relationship with God and with others without all the religious bondage, but they too are opposed and put out by the religious.
- Martin Luther
Read the fascinating story of Martin Luther, history
Being in Relationship with God, free from religion
I could spend a lot of time on this point, but I will just highlight a few things. First I just want to say that it is possible to be in a good relationship with God without all the trappings of religion. In fact, it is mandatory to lose the religion if you want that relationship with God. Simply put, religion is an attempt to do things to make God happy, and to satisfy your conscience. In religion is the requirement to be involved in ceremonies, to have human enforced structure, and to live by guilt.
On the other hand is a genuine relationship with God. God is organic. That is, everything that the Three does is done out of relationship and Their love for Each Other. God intended for us to live in relationship with Him. When Adam and Eve disobeyed, that relationship was broken. Cain, their oldest son, invented religion. Since that time humans have invented a myriad of religions. They all have the same premise which is to perform ceremonies, and to perform certain rituals instead of living in organic relationship with God.
When Jesus came He chose 12 men, the disciples, and showed them how to live in community with each other. After He went back to heaven they saw many others become followers of Jesus. Those who followed Jesus were taught how to live in community with each other. They lived that out by meeting in houses and other places where life happened. They did eventually meet in catacombs due to persecution from the Roman government. By the way the Romans were very religious. They also met for the purpose of encouraging each other, sharing a meal, and praying. Their gatherings were not religious ceremonies, but rather simply gatherings for the sake of being together. They didn't have a priest over them. They did not have a structure to their gatherings. After they grew to a point of there being followers of Jesus all over the world, they did not set up denominations or other structures to organize themselves. It all remained organic and simple. However, as we all know, the Christian church gave in to religion, and began meeting in dedicated buildings, having structured leadership (rather than the organic leadership in the New Testament), and became passive participants in weekly religious ceremonies. They moved away from simple communities who shared life together.
Today, and for a while now, there is a mass movement of people who see that the only way to follow the way of Jesus is to walk away from religion, and to share life with others in community. This is such a brief survey of history, and the teachings of the Bible concerning God and religion. My hope is that this will spark a desire in you to research further what God desires as we relate to Him. You can have a relationship with God free from the bondage of religion. It is good, but also can be scary as you walk away from structure and familiar surroundings to a place where you live daily without the visible supports that religion provides. However, what you will discover is a God Who sets people free from bondage, and gives life true meaning and fulfillment.