author: Wade Allen title: Religion vs. Relationship date: 2013-02-25 category: blog layout: blog comments: yes —

A year ago, a video was posted on YouTube about religion. Since that time, it has been watched over 24 million times; you might say it went viral. In this video, Tony Anderson shares his disdain for religion. While he passionately calls people to love Jesus, he exposes the flawed nature of the institutional church. So what do we do with this? Do we throw out organized religion in light of Jesus?

Many have written about the dangers of organized religion. Charles Kimball in When Religion Becomes Evil describes the warning signs. Kimball goes a bit further than I would. He proposes that absolute truth is dangerous; I understand absolute truth as necessary and affirmed in Scripture. At the same time, he sheds light on the destructive potential of organized religion. Certainly Jesus observed a broken-down religious system as he encountered the religious leaders of His day.

In this week’s text (Luke 13:1-9), we are reminded of the peril of self-righteous, rule-centered religion. In the wake of recent tragedies, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day are pointing fingers. They blame the misfortune on the sin of the victims. Jesus rebukes their claim. Twice (Luke 13:3, 5), Jesus states,

I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

Jesus challenges their finger-pointing. He criticizes their posture of religious elitism. When those in our culture criticize religion, perhaps they are intending to target this sort. I would agree that the church includes finger-pointing, judgmental, grace-deficient members. And this sort of posture is opposed to Jesus’ Kingdom. Yet, the church also includes humble, grace-filled, Jesus-following believers who do their best to live in the Kingdom of God. We have to be careful that we do not destroy the beautiful body of the church as we attack religion. Certainly, Jesus is active in the sustaining and equipping of His body (the Church). Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians,

(Ephesians 5:25–27 NIV) Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Jesus is active in building his church. It is essential that the church remain connected to Him. I hope that such YouTube videos will not portray Jesus as disconnected from His body. I agree with Tony Anderson. The church is sometimes a mess and often gravitates toward fake religiosity. Certainly, Jesus abhors this behavior. I just hope that viewers will not diminish the role of Christ’s church in the building of His Kingdom. A church empowered by relationship with Jesus is God’s desire and design. Can religion be bad? Sure. But the church equipped and nurtured in Jesus has the power to transform this world.

(Ephesians 3:21 NIV) to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen