In recent years we have lots of conversations about the issue of religion. We have many hashtags on faith, and why many people hate it to the core. Let me say on the onset that I don’t like religion as well. I mean, I wouldn’t want to be caught up in something that promises nothing else than misery and pain. The narrative of religions across the world is saddening. Many people have lost wealth, and even lives on account of this thing called religion.
In Uganda, there was an alleged religious cult under the ‘Christian’ title, that held captive a group of people for many years. One day the leader told them that God had told him that the world was coming to an end. He bundled the congregants, commanded them to sell all their belongings and locked themselves up in the sanctuary, ready for the rapture. Foolishly, and of course, sadly, the people bought into the story. By the time rescue came, many had died of starvation, all in the name of religion. A similar story happened in the USA about a shoddy preacher man who gassed his members to death all in the name of religion. Something is wrong with this movement called religion.
What is religion?
One dictionary online describes religion as “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” Notice the use of the words “beliefs, superhuman agency, ritual observances and moral code of conduct.”
With this in mind, let us see what the world religions are all about. Our effort today is to demystify the whole issue of Christianity not being a religion as many would want to look at it. The base of the argument is that religion causes hopelessness to engulf the people involved in it. Religion causes fear and anxieties at times. There is a lot of expectation and little assistance to accomplish all the desired ends.
Leaders of Religion
Usually, in a religious following, the leaders seem to be more at ease than the followers because everything revolves around them. The follower’s allegiance is towards a non-existent person, the leader. The leader’s lie is that if we keep to the rules and become pious, we will inherit some form of a better life later. The sad part about it is that there never seems to be a certainty if the leader has achieved this better life, nor is their assurance of ever getting there. With such a situation, religion teaches that more good works and adherence to rules will make it possible for the followers to draw closer to a better life.
Religion binds and blinds us to the truth—even common sense realities. People are said to do things they wouldn’t do in their natural and normal state of mind. How? What is it about religion that so holds the thoughts of many captive? Well, Karl Max, the German philosopher, said that religion is the opium of the masses. It controls to the craziest of extents, even a whole nation. Since ages past, there has been a stark difference between Christianity and religions of the world. Every known religion bases their teaching on a man/ woman who is no longer existent today. These leaders of such religions insist that the members keep to a specific code of ethics so that their followers will become more obedient to them and feel they have gained something to get what they desire, heaven or a good life. Not so with Christianity.
What is Christianity?
The Old Testament is a story of God reaching out to man so that they could have their relationship restored. The rules and regulations were a way of getting the people’s minds focused on their God and not so much in the nitty grittier of activities. In the book of Isaiah, we see Yahweh rebuking the Israelites for doing activities without their hearts attached to it. He calls this kind of approach noise. It had ceased from being a path to a relationship and had become mere lists of do’s and don’ts. God was keen on having the devotion of these people than their activity. He told Isaiah that these people bless me with their mouths, but their hearts are far away from me (Isaiah 29:13). He had issues with people doing things for their sake without seeking a relationship. This is what Jesus came to restore back to us- relationship.
Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. It is not about do’s and don’ts but about being someone new, born into a new family. In Jesus Christ, God wanted us to know that His interest is in our hearts more than our religious deeds. He said in John that if we love him we will keep his commandments (John 14:15, John 14:21). And his commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). When we call people to Christianity, we are not calling them, firstly, to a code of ethics but to a relationship. We are calling them to come and meet the person who can transform their lives and give the ability to accomplish all the good pleasure of God’s will.
Jesus said that he would give us the helper who would guide us into all truth (John 14:16-17, John 16:13). This helper is not a pastor or a church leader. It is the Holy Spirit of God. He comes to us and gives the ability to do all that God calls us to do. Paul said in Galatians 2:20 that Christ lives in him; the life he lives, he lives by faith in the Son of God. This is the core of Christianity- relationship. A relationship only works when it is mutual. Both parties have a part in it. In this regard, God gives the expectations and the ability to live unto them. Man, on the other hand, responds to the offer by submitting to the Lord, who can cause them to walk, miraculously, in obedience. The true Christian, therefore, depends totally on an inner power to achieve an impossible expectation- holiness.
God Came to Us
In Christianity, we are not working hard to be loved by God. He came to us while we were still sinners and weak (Ephesians 2:1-9, Romans 5:1-8) and quickened us to his calling. He gave us all we needed to please him so that we could give up all we were trying to do to get to Him (2 Peter 1:3). He came to us we did not go to him, which is contrary to world religions.
Knowing that Jesus has given all that is needed to get to him when life is done, gives his followers confidence. We will enter the kingdom because of what he did and not what we are doing. Therefore, turn away from extreme views of Christianity. Come to a relationship of love and grace and mercy. Jesus is willing to open your eyes that you may see him. You only need to turn your heart towards his direction. Welcome to the most fantastic relationship ever!
If you want to learn more about the difference between Christianity and religion, please read this blog.