5.) Religion says only listen to, attend, and watch “Christian” things. Jesus says look for truth everywhere.
Religion says anything that doesn’t have Jesus written squarely across the building, song, or movie is sinful. So, only go to Christian schools. Listen to Christian music. Watch lame Christian movies. And go to church events. And I am not against any of these things. I praise God for Christian schools and music.
But with Jesus there is no such thing as Christian and non-Christian schools, music, and movies. It’s interesting that many Christians say a sign on the outside of a building doesn’t make a church. Yet, these same Christians (myself included) turn around and say a school or movie is Christian because “Christian” is somewhere in the title.
Schools and music become Christian when Christians are present and truth is proclaimed.
Schools and events become Christian when followers of Jesus are present. Music becomes “Christian” when truth is present, even if the singer isn’t “Christian” (Phil. 1:18). Christians like to create distinct lines between secular and sacred, but those lines aren’t anywhere in the Bible. Neither are the terms.
This means we need Christians everywhere. Secular schools. Music. Movies. “Christian” schools. Law firms. Hospitals. Everywhere. God doesn’t create lines between “Christian” and non-Christian. Everything he creates is good. And every inch of the earth he wants to restore.
6.) Religion is fueled by fear and punishment. Jesus is fueled by love and mercy.
“The problem with fear-based Christianity is we only obey when the fear is present. Love, however, produces lasting joy.”–Jefferson Bethke
Religion uses fear and punishment as primary motivators. “You better do all the right things or God’s wrath is waiting for you. Come to Jesus or you will burn in hell forever.”
Religion paints God as an angry, spiteful cynic who sits around with the angels waiting for someone to screw up so he can turn them into salt or something.
But Jesus’s life and actions were driven by love. You see, what makes God amazing is not his infinite power. What makes God amazing is he chooses to love relentlessly even though he has infinite power.
I get angry (holy anger, of course) when I think about the way many preachers drive people to God through manipulation and scare tactic. And once people are scared into Christ, every decision is filtered through whether or not God will strike them dead.
I wonder if many Christians (myself included) will have to answer for not erring on the side of love instead of fear. Fear creates lifeless religion. Fear creates Christians who only want God so they can escape hell. And eternity with God is not a place for those scared of hell. It is a place for those who love God.
7.) Religion is safe and practical. Jesus is radical and unpredictable.
With religion, there is no need to take risks. Maybe go on a mission trip once in your lifetime. But, generally speaking, just do the right thing. Religion is very practical. It makes sense. There are no surprises. Five steps to salvation. Church the same time every week. Religion doesn’t ask much from you. It doesn’t deliver much either.
But Jesus? If Jesus had a middle name, it would be “Unpredictable.” Jesus kept everyone on their toes. He ate with tax collectors. He scolded the religious people. He interceded on behalf of prostitutes. He claimed to be…(wait for it)…God.
And ultimately God died on a cross. For me. And you. Now that’s radical.