ODJ: good religion

May 16, 2013 

READ: James 1:19-27 

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows (v.27).

As a pastor, I get interesting responses from people when they discover my vocation. Some will immediately apologise for the language they’ve used. Some offer a forced smile and then come up with an excuse to change the subject. One line I hear often is: “Well, I like Jesus, but I don’t like religion.”

I understand the sentiment. People are suspicious of the church and religion because they believe the church to be greedy or fear-mongering or unloving. And it’s true that believers in Jesus have in fact sometimes exhibited those things. We have too often not lived up to our name and followed the way of Jesus.

‘Religion’, however, is the practice of faith (James 1:27). The church is the physical way God has given us to practise the way of God’s kingdom. The problem with saying we like Jesus but not the church is that Jesus loves the church. He said it’s something He will build (Matthew 16:18). In addition, Paul uses the imagery of the church as Jesus’ bride (Ephesians 5:22-23). If we love Him, then loving the church is part of the package deal. 

When we say that we like God but not religion, what we sometimes mean is that we like our individual, internal notions of ‘faith’, but we don’t want to be committed to any actual narratives, practices or communities of faith. We want the vague notion of God (one that easily bends to our whims), but we don’t want to commit ourselves to the difficult work of living in real relationships guided by truths to which we must obediently yield. 

Concrete actions (like caring for orphans and widows) done within a concrete community (the church) is good religion. We need it, and it will honour God and bring us joy.—Winn Collier

Read James 1:19-27 again. How does our religion become worthless? And why do you think this would make us foolish?
Where might you be called to commit more fully to a concrete community of faith? In what ways do you need to begin living out a concrete practice of faith?
1 reply
  1. Benedict
    Benedict says:

    I agree with what’s being said. I’m studying away from my hometown and so attend a different church here in this city. I’m more of a quiet person and do not make friends that easily.
    I know I should be concerned for the Christian community where I am but I struggle to do so. This is a good reminder that I cannot be contented with just going to church and hear the Word and then go home. I need to have real fellowship with my fellow Christians that we can encourage and build each other up.
    Perhaps one thing I could do is to move out of my comfort zone and take the initiative to approach my church members. May God be gracious and merciful to me. Thanks for today’s encouragement. =]

Comments are closed.