If someone were to ask me what my religion was, I would probably respond by saying that I’m a Christian. But that wouldn’t exactly be the truth. You see, in reality, I don’t consider myself to be a religious person. While the world may list Christianity as one of many world religions, following Jesus is anything but religious.
- Jesus spent much of His ministry coming against “religion.” You see, the Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day. And by religious, I mean that they were all about the Law. They loved the Law so much that they added countless laws to it forcing the Jews to obey any and every command they so desired. It was all about rituals and obedience, but they lacked heart. They loved the Law, but they didn’t love God.
- Religion focuses on doctrine rather than the heart. Jesus made one point clear throughout His ministry: it’s all about the heart. Don’t get me wrong, good theology matters. But if we’re not careful, theology and doctrine can become our main focus. Just like the Pharisees, we can lose sight of why we’re studying it in the first place. I’m sure they didn’t just wake up one morning and decide they wanted to be ultra-rigid and religious. It was a gradual process of slowly losing sight of what their true purpose as leaders of the Jewish faith.
- Religion causes disunity. We often hear that we should never discuss religion, and it’s the truth. Religion has the ability to divide us over the simplest of beliefs. It’s broken up friendships, marriages, families… It’s even caused entire nations to go to war with one another.
- Religion is difficult. To be honest, following a bunch of rules about how I should live my life is hard work. I now completely understand what the Apostle Paul meant when he said he was set free from the Law. Obeying the Law (especially with all of the newly added rules of the Pharisees) was an impossible burden for the Jewish people, which is one of the reasons why Jesus said that rest could be found in Him.
- Religion was an invention of the enemy to steer us away from God’s truth. Yes, you read that right. Religion was Satan’s idea. I know this because all throughout the Bible (and history) we see something called idolatry. Nearly every culture in ancient times served not just one god, but multiple gods… usually in the form of man-made statues or images. Some even worshiped creation itself – frogs, rivers, snakes, the sun, the stars, etc. But the enemy’s greatest trick of all was to transform Judaism and eventually Christianity into “religions.” Instead of following Jesus, we follow rules and traditions. It’s exactly what the Pharisees did in the New Testament, and it is exactly what some try to do as Christians today.
Religious Christianity is rule and doctrine based. God’s transforming power and love is missing; and to be honest, it is this type of Christianity that turns the world off to Christ altogether. The world knows it isn’t genuine.
Empty religion, apart from God's love and power, is simply the enemy’s version of worship.Click To Tweet
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” – Matthew 23:25-26 (NASB)
So there you have it – five reasons why I refuse to be religious. It may sound harsh to say that I hate religion, but in reality, Jesus hated religion too. Religion makes people feel like they are being good when in reality their hearts are far from God.
It certainly gave the Pharisees a sense of pride. But while they claimed to be doing it all for God, they were really doing it for themselves. And in the process, they were leading others down the same path.
So yes, Jesus hated religion because it was keeping people from the truth and power of God’s love for them. It’s one of the very reasons He died… to set us free from the burden of religion and to introduce us to the life-changing power of a life empowered by the Holy Spirit.
As children of God, we have been transformed by the power of His love.
Every day we strive and grow as we learn to walk in our new God-given identity.
We are empowered by the Holy Spirit as He teaches us, guides us, and gives us the strength to say no to temptation.
We live for Christ, not by following a list of rules, but by listening to the Holy Spirit and living by God’s truth.
God never called us to be religious; rather He longs for us to become His children.
*Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations taken from the NASB.