Wednesday, 9 January 2013

What does God hate?? Religion... or Legalism?

"One theme that follows the biblical insistence on holiness and purity is separation.  The Christian is to be removed from certain aspects of the world.  This message is proclaimed by James: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27). Similarly, Paul writes to the Corinthians: "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor 6:17-18).  Such appeals to live pure and distinctive lives are based on the fact that we are God's own people; our relationships and behaviour ought to be different from those of the world."
Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, p990

People who tell me God hates religion really bug me.  It's obvious that He doesn't.  We see in James there is religion that He accepts as pure and faultless and part of that is not being polluted by the world... staying away from harmful things the rest of the world sees as ok.

But what we see from church history (even recent church history) is that legalism creeps in.  One persons ideas of 'pollution' may be stricter than another's and suddenly there's no dancing, or talking allowed, or joy at all.  Our human desire is to have our own way, so when our own way gets focused on self-righteousness we can impose our thoughts onto others in a way that is highly legalistic.  Not for one second do I believe that is 'religion'.  And we saw how Jesus treated the legalistic religious leaders, because they weren't being overly religious, but were all legalism.

So let's stop this tag line of 'God hates religion'  - or 'Christianity is about relationship not religion'.  Because neither are true.  Religion is about caring and loving others in the name of Jesus and striving to be purified from the world's influence on our worship and faith.

And maybe in a defense to those overly legalistic religious ideas of the past, we have in fact allowed ourselves to go unchecked to some things the world sees as fine, but really do pollute our faith.  Without becoming legalistic ourselves maybe we need to do a check and clean up of the things we allow in.

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