Religion vs. Grace
Over the last weeks, I’ve posted through social media some condemnation of religion. And some religious folk have been pushing back a little.
Let me be clear, all this “pushing” is coming from a guy who has been religious most of my life; I am done with it. But I’m definitely not done with religious folk; I love them and understand them all too well. I was in it up to my eyeballs, but I was never that good at it. Maybe that’s why it’s been so easy to condemn, not the folks but religion itself.
You don’t have to look very far to see all of the good things that religion has accomplished. The Jews had the Ten Commandments, the foundation for a civilization based on law and order that has withstood the tests of time.
It was religious fervor that discovered America.
The same Jewish Ten Commandments were also the basis of our good old USA. Rules and regulations are critical in society and religion helped provide the guidelines for our very successful experiment.
I am grateful for all of the worldwide philanthropy initiated by religion. Good religion feeds the hungry.
Religion also joined up with monarchs and explorers and established communities all over this world, often on top of competing religion.
And that’s not always been a good thing. You don’t have to look far before you realize that there has been so much evil done in the name of religion.
Religion, like businesses, thrive on the concepts of comparing, competing, and controlling.
Religion can become powerfully persuasive or unattractive, uninspiring, and irrelevant.
Religious disciplines aren’t necessarily bad but they usually create smugness.
They’re usually built around special charismatic leaders or special doctrines … you must believe in a certain way to be accepted and to climb the ladder.
Groupthink is essential. Religion is generally an exclusive club. And you jump through the hoops to keep your membership in good standing.
Religion produces an “us” and “them” mentality, insiders and outsiders.
Religion tells you who you aren’t, but seldom celebrates who you are. They are structured like businesses and can never become family because they are entirely performance-based!
Besides all of that, as John Crowder says, “our religious structures today, depend heavily on maintaining the delusion of darkness and separation from God in order to exist. Religion builds an industry on the concept of distance from God. I would contend that this darkness is the very delusion of fallen Adam which religion was invented to enforce and a lie which Jesus came to awaken us from. God never abandoned us! God doesn’t do abandonment! Darkness is the lie that we can exist apart from God – find a bush to hide under where God is not.”
Paul discovered something much bigger and way better than religion, “…we can religiously bestow all of our goods to feed the poor, even give our bodies to be burned, but if we don’t have love it profits nothing!” (See 1 Cor 13:3)
There was quite a stir when the Holy Spirit was poured out back in the early church. People were discovering Jesus by the thousands. Yet I find it surprising that it wasn’t the non-inclusive religious strain of Christianity coming out of Jerusalem that turned the world upside down. It was Paul’s inclusive grace message coming out of the city of Damascus that changed everything.
In fact, it wasn’t in Jerusalem that the disciples were first called Christians. It was Damascus!
“Christianity is not a religion: it is the proclamation of the end of religion. Religion is a human activity dedicated to the job of reconciling God to humanity and humanity to itself. The gospel, however – the good news of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is the astonishing announcement that God has done the whole work of reconciliation without a scrap of human assistance. It is the bizarre proclamation that religion is over – period!” Writes F. Robert Capon.
John Crowder – “By stripping the sacred cow of religion down to the very bone and not giving one inch of ground to human effort and the lie of separation or paying off an angry god… only then can we begin to drink the pure, unmixed message of the gospel of grace. It is unending bliss and abundance! It is having our cake and eating it too. It’s the scandal of his goodness which we could never have dreamed up, much less acquired, yet has relentlessly been poured into us freely and single-handedly in Jesus.”
And as John Crowder says, “Faith doesn’t get you into the club. Faith is the recognition and acceptance of your already given inclusion into the life of God. Salvation is not a decision for Christ. It is Christ’s decision for you! Sin may have separated you from God but sin has never separated God from you! He is forgiveness. He was not OK with leaving you broken and alienated, hence the work of the cross! And to live authentically is to believe the truth about what God believes about you.”
Baxter Kruger says, “The gospel is not inviting Jesus into your life. It is the good news that he has already included you in his life.”
I would propose to y’all that it isn’t going to be religion that changes our world for good. Religion doesn’t have that potential. But grace is another thing altogether, and grace is entirely irreligious and breathtakingly scandalous!
As Capon again so marvelously says, “Grace has to be drunk straight, no water, no ice and certainly no ginger ale…”
Love you, Lloyd
Lloyd Clark is an entrepreneur, a former pastor, and a writer. He is passionate about being loved by our Heavenly Father and revealing that same love to everyone he meets. He and his wife Mary have 5 children and 7 grandchildren and live in North Carolina.