It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
The youtube video above is called "Why I hate religion, but love Jesus" and has been virally spreading all over the web over the past several days. Its a powerfully done spoken-word on the difference between authentic, living faith and a rigidly constructed rules oriented set of beliefs that many see as religion. I have listened to the video several times as links were sent from friends and I agree with much of what this talented young man is saying.
What he is saying is not new but a creative expression of the realization of many that Jesus came to develop a rich connection with us and among us, not a set of rules and regulations inwhich to live by. It would also be wrong to think that Jesus came to simply send people to heaven and had no sense of accountability or ethics. Jesus came to transform people based upon who he is, what he has done, and what he will do. Yet, within that vibrant relationship, there are some significant expectations that are not simply a result of our being, but our doing.
In Matthew 25:20-45, Jesus gives an examples of himself on judgement day, when he is evaluating people's faith as evidenced by what they have done. Those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the incarcerated, offered shelter to the homeless were called faithful (those having authentic faith), while those who ignored those things were cast away.
This does not mean that our faith is based upon what we do, but that an authentic relationship with Jesus has some significant responsibilities. Jesus never once asks his disciples to "receive him" but to count the cost in following him. To receive him is a passive activity whereas to follow Jesus is an active active process that requires sacrifice (Luke 14:25-33).
All this to say, I celebrate the conviction that Jesus came to know us relationally and that we can actually know, in a personal, powerful, and practical way, the living God. I shout to the hills that there is no barrier, in heaven, Earth, or hell that can separate anyone from the love of God through Christ Jesus!!!!
I am hesitant to speak of Christianity solely on the terms of unaccountable relationship where Jesus has no expectations from his followers. Additionally, I am also uncomfortable with the popular notion that "religion" = "organized institution". Interestingly, authentic Christianity was meant to practiced and developed within communities of people. There was no such thing as individual Christianity in the Bible. In fact, our love for God is expressed in our love for those in community (John 13:34-35).
I want to challenge you today to think about your relationship with God and examine your faith. Is it relationally built, or derrived from rules. It is said that rules without relationship will lead to rebellion, and it is true.
I pray that you know God deeply today, and the rest with flow naturally from your soul.
Pastor M Traylor