I have frequently taken the position that God hates religion. I studied this in great detail. I concluded that since there was no religion (or, at least, the conventionally accepted manifestation of it) in the Garden of Eden, it had to be something devised by man and, therefore, rejected by God.
I was totally right. And totally wrong.
The Word of God says, “let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). For the sake of this discussion, I’d like to modify this to say, “let God be true and ME be a liar!”
I’ve searched multiple translations of scripture and every translation renders the word, “religion,” the same. Now, I know that James was written to Hebrew Christians and that the term “religion” was used as a frame of reference, thus making the passage contextual. However, that word, “religion,” persists.
Therefore, there must be something God is trying to communicate to us here. Whenever you read a “therefore” in scripture – or use “therefore” when rendering a conclusion, you need to find out what the “therefore” is there, for!
Now I can go real deep on this but I will keep it simple as this is material for an upcoming book (shameless plug). Suffice it to say, religion is not your system of belief – rather, correctly applied, it comprises the steps by which individuals or groups express their belief. The problem is that man has permitted the steps by which faith is expressed to become a belief system in and of itself.
True Christianity, then, is not a religion, it is a lifestyle or state of being. It is the overarching principles by which we experience relationship with our Heavenly Father through Christ Jesus.
Expressed another way, you have a relationship with your spouse. The love you share is the overarching principle of your marriage. However, this relationship must be maintained. You have to have “date-nights,” purchase gifts, perform acts of service, be complementary, be kind, listen, etc. Another analogy would be ownership of a car. The car, itself, is the overarching principle. But in the glovebox, there is an owners manual, which contains a service schedule. If you don’t follow the service schedule, the car will not perform as designed and may fall apart well before its designed service-life. In both cases, the maintenance is critical to the survival of the relationship.
With that in mind, pure religion (James 1:27) is what we do to maintain relationship with the Father through Jesus. Mind you, God’s part was finished on the Cross at Calvary. However, we have to walk our part out. Let’s make it clear, though, this doesn’t render Christianity works-based; indeed, that would reduce it to mere religion and defile it.
Pure religion undefiled means operating and walking in love. When you walk in love, you will not allow your brothers and sisters in Christ – especially the weakest ones – to be destitute or in lack. You will go out of your way not to offend them. You will stand up for and defend them. The will, culture, and intent of the Kingdom of God is grounded and rooted in love and when you operate according to Kingdom principles you demonstrate the kind of religion defined in James 1:27.
That’s love. That’s religion…that proves whom you are in relationship with.
© 2012 – Derrick Day (www.derrickday.com)