You live in Mars if you haven’t seen the viral “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” spoken word poem. It is seemingly one of the fastest spreading vids ever, and has eclipsed 6 million views in just three days. For those who do math, that’s about 2 million views per day. This doesn’t take into account all the re-posts and views through social media sites.
Watching it, it made me wonder why someone simply rhyming about the differences between religion and a relationship with Jesus would hit so close to home for so many people.
I posted this on Facebook several weeks ago:
“Friends don’t let friends do religion.”
I was surprised that several people, both Christian and not Christian, asked me in person what I meant by it. Explaining to someone who believes that religion = Jesus is not an easy undertaking. I think we, as a church, would do well to take a long hard look at ourselves. People are tired of religion, plain and simple.
With all this in mind, I wanted to share a few of my thoughts about it all.
1. People are sick and tired of religion. By religion, I mean the I Love Jesus Show we often put on before others, but our lives evidence that we are, indeed, hypocrites. This goes for Christians individually and churches collectively. Being religious in inherent in our genes. We are born with the predisposition for faking it, whether before God or before men. After all these centuries, I wonder, is this the generation that is finally waking up to the farce?
This awakening could be a good and bad thing. It’s good because it says the sham is over, let’s do something about it. It’s bad because surveys show an increasing amount of people, especially young people, are leaving the church at an alarming rate. Why? Because religion can only satisfy for so long.
2. Jesus is the cure for religion. Jesus came to destroy the false notion that says by cleaning up our act, going to church, and doing good deeds, we could earn a free pass to Heaven. The entire New Testament was written to underscore the point that Jesus really is THE answer, not our religion. The idea that something we do could restore fellowship with God ought to be put down faster than a pitbull with rabies. Jesus says that what he did on the cross was more than enough. We should simply embrace his words. We should simply embrace him.
3. There is good religion. The Bible tells us in James 1:27 that there is a religion that is acceptable to God. It’s very simple: take care of the fatherless and husbandless, and keep ourselves uncorrupted by the world system in which we live. This religion is really no religion at all, but part of Christ’s greatest commandment to love God and others.
Unfortunately, down through the centuries, the church has gotten to a place where it looks inward instead of outward. Millions go hungry, ignored, and persecuted in our cities, streets, and neighborhoods while we sit all warm and comfy in our safe stained glass bubbles. We fight and fret over what color our church carpet should be instead of being burdened about how we can take Jesus to the least of these.
We’ve gotten so far away from the simple, unadorned, effective religion of Jesus. It’s time to repent and return.
4. What does a relationship with Christ look like? First, I hope no one uses the whole “I love Jesus/hate religion” argument to excuse themselves from following his laws and commandments. I see this happen often as people claim to follow Jesus and not religion, yet our lives bear little resemblance to the life Jesus said he gave us. A relationship with Christ is simply living every day to glorify him. All we do is understood as an act of worship. We take him with us wherever we go. We do not compartmentalize our lives into the Christian/secular. We don’t get drunk on Saturdays and sing in the choir on Sundays.
We simply enjoy Christ in all things, whether it be good music, fellowship, art, food, or fun. We live a life redeemed by grace and we extend that grace in copious amounts to those around us. We seek to meet the deepest needs of those who, like us, were created in God’s image. We go out seeking to bring his great name to all people, whether at the grocery store, school, DMV, hair salon, or across the water. It’s natural for us. We are not annoying, we are passionate.
Will we be everything we should at all times? No, we will not. We’ll stumble, fall, fail, and flail as we follow Jesus. Saved sinners are we, but while here, sinners we still remain. Grace makes for an exceptionally soft landing.
It’s important that if we’re going to hate religion, we hate the religion which places our works and moralism above that of Jesus. If we’re going to love Jesus, it’s important we remember that he first loved us, and showed it by dying in our place. It’s important we remember that it is finished. We can’t add or subtract to anything he has done. When we do, that is when we get into the religion that we should hate.
Religion sucks. Jesus saves.
Let the revolution begin.