Gimme That Old-Time Religion

Hated that hymn as a kid and I still do.  It’s just yeah.  Not my thing.  However, I am a fan of religion.  As a Christian, I kind of have to be.  Yeah, I know it’s all the rage for Christians to decry religion and show their spiritual superiority by claiming that THEY have a relationship– not something so weak and worthless as “religion”– but I am not of that camp.  See, I believe that the Word of God is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword piercing to the joints and the marrow.  I believe that every word in the Word is God-breathed and essential for me in my relationship with the Lord.

That being the case, how can I throw out scripture itself in order to be “spiritually correct” this year?  James 1:27 specifically says:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Sorry, I don’t think that gives me leave to denigrate what God has clearly required of us.  We are to be compassionate to widows and orphans and we are to keep the taint of the world off of us.  This is religion and we are to be religious in our application of it.

Why do brothers and sisters in Christ decry the principle rather than the misuse of it.  Religion is not the problem.  Our misuse and idolization of it can be, definitely.  So reject that!  Rejecting the principles of Scripture is just as wrong as the misuse of them is.

1 thought on “Gimme That Old-Time Religion

  1. A focus on that – religion – probably develops because it’s hard to keep oneself unstained without careful watch and application of Scripture. We end up wanting a system. The caring for widows and orphans is self-explanatory, but staying clean is harder, especially when it says “keep oneself” instead of “go ahead and get dirty and then go back to God to get cleaned up again.”

    So we develop systems of religion, sincerely trying to stay within God’s plan, and that “religion” looks limiting to others who also seek Christ and either want their own plan or don’t think you should have a plan beyond “trust God,” and also to those who reject the need to please God by keeping oneself clean at all.

    Perhaps the problem is that the Bible is a pretty long book. We tend to pick out a few passages and principles and make them our own Readers’ Digest version. They may be the verses that are about marriage or homemaking or raising children or dress or worship music or separation from the world, or being in the world, or money or baptism or other doctrinal points, and we focus on them. We call that religion BECAUSE we believe that by applying those Biblical principles to our lives, we stand a better chance of keeping ourselves unstained.

    It would be good if we had two different words for the noun in James 1:27 and the process we use to achieve it.

    A relationship comes first, of course, because only the Holy Spirit can achieve that for us. If we don’t love God with all our heart and soul and mind, the act of religion described in James is just filthy rags. Our own works, empty of the Holy Spirit, are empty indeed. But immediately upon our salvation, we do have responsibility for those acts of religion.

    That image of Christ dividing the sheeps and goats is pretty alarming, isn’t it?

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