Part III:He Is the Same … December 2, 2011

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Charlotte, North Carolina

Jesus despises religion.

Now, why would I come along and aggravate all of my religious friends with such a harsh statement? It is not my intention to try to cause an uprising amongst the church-going folk of our world, but rather, to do exactly what I feel my job as a writer requires–that being, to give you a consensus of the mind-set of Jesus. And if you even take twenty-five minutes to read the gospels, you discover that Jesus could not be in a room with religious people without ending up in an argument.

Why? Religion by-passes the human heart to reach the mind in an attempt to touch the soul. Jesus, on the other hand, wanted to reach the human heart to touch the soul, to then renew the mind. Completely different missions.

Religion does its very best to construct many simple rules that supposedly can be simply followed to produce simple results and often, quite frankly, simple people. Jesus envisioned a following that would be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, who would be known for their tenacity, candor and giving spirit.

Jesus despises religion. To make my point I will use his own words. He despises religion because:

1. It strains at the gnat and swallows the camel. His tongue-in-cheek description here of how an organization meticulously tries to follow the rigor of its own rules while ignoring the obvious need around the world was a great source of frustration to him. He did not understand the value of imposing regulations on individuals when the goal was to create a populous that could generate its own energy and life-force. He said there were “weightier matters” in life.

Religion does its best to stop human progress. Christianity did absolutely nothing to aid in the alleviation of slavery or the elimination of all forms of prejudice and bigotry in this country. It trailed behind in every attempt to give freedom to people to discover their destiny. Jesus despises it.

2. He said, “In vain do you worship me because you teach the commandments of man as if they are the words of God.” When you walk into the average religious ceremony, your first inclination is fear over doing something that is contrary to the practice of the gathered faithful. What hogwash. Man was not created for the Sabbath. God did not create us so that we could serve and praise Him. God created us in His image, to be His children, and as His children, to be happy, fruitful and productive. When you start teaching that your particular religious approach is holy because it has survived for a hundred and fifty years, you have lost sight of the value of true worship. He ends that statement, by the way, with, “They praise me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” Once again, human emotions are left out of the experience.

3. He said “religion creates burdens grievous to be borne and does nothing to help people lift the weight.” Religion, which should make life easier, actually complicates it by making us nervous about what we do rather than confident in our choices. Religion creates a series of rocks and bricks to carry around which are supposed to build spiritual muscle in us but only serve to produce fatigue. Jesus was angry at religion for fostering a philosophy which had no earthly quality or human benefit but only served to discourage and tire out anyone who participated.

4. Jesus said that religion “devours widows’ houses.” What do you think about an organization that does not manufacture a product, fails to service its own units, has a horrible sales force and personnel are constantly disgruntled? You would call that business doomed, wouldn’t you? But that’s religion. It continues to pass the offering plate, demanding to be served, failing to offer the gospel message which creates servants, who in learning to be so, actually become masters. Many religious organizations even hold seminars on how to get people to leave money from their wills to the church. I have discovered in my travels that if you benefit someone and they are enriched by the experience of meeting you, you will not have to ask for a donation. They will decide on their own to impart a blessing your way. Religion is always begging for money and always attacking the bank accounts of those less fortunate. Jesus hated it.

5. And finally, Jesus despised that religion teaches the present traditions of men as being God’s word. This is why it is so dngerous when religion and politics mingle together–because whatever the social climate of the day may be, it suddenly becomes of some religious significance. So we have blights on the history of our faith when black men were called monkeys by preachers, Jews were called Christ killers and AIDS was called the”gay plague.” All of it was done in the name of religion, but was actually the traditions of men, loosely knit together with hapless scriptures which somewhat reinforced the theory.

So you might ask me, “What are we supposed to do in the absence of religion to provide spirituality?” All any pastor or church need do to transform themselves from a traditional religious organization into a Jesonian congregation is to establish one truth in the onset: “Our church is not a religious organization nor is it a set of beliefs. It is what Jesus said it was supposed to be. It is a lifestyle. If you attend here, be prepared to see your life change, transform , improve and prosper.” Once you establish that, you escape the rhetoric of religion and you gain a vision for a human, spirited life.

It’s not very complicated. But as long as you think that an organ, a pew, a hymn book or even holding a Bible has special significance, you will be at odds with the master of your faith–because Jesus despised religion. Whenever they tried to make him Jewish, he became universal. Whenever they tried to make him universal, he harkened back to his Jewish roots. He was determined to be the son of man, not the son of religion. And because he despised religion, it left him great energy and praise to give to his favorite subject.

We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

***************

Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

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