Re·li·gion: Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.
Religion, while having many problems, has a lot of great things to offer, the greatest of which is family; however, is it just me or does it seem like many people are becoming disgruntled with all sorts of things concerning religion? People are ultimately, walking away and claiming no real allegiance to any religion at all. In all honesty, I’ve noticed myself growing a bit jaded with religion and what it has come to; but unless I can be honest with myself and see my own faults, how can I contribute to the mending of what is becoming broken?
The Real Problem
You see, the real problem isn’t religion; it’s us, the people! We’re the ones with selfishness, pride, and greed. We quickly point fingers of contempt and disapproval at the ministers who ask us to do things we feel aren’t entirely biblical or reasonable. We gather our friends together and share our complaints and disapproval in hopes of saving them from a ministry of wrong teachings. We complain when the church asks us for money because we feel like we’ve worked hard for that money and we’re barely making it the way it is! Then we go and trade our 22-inch televisions for a 44-inch flat screen. We complain of the teachings of modesty because we want to go on vacation, or let our kids go to school and “fit in” by wearing what all the other girls are wearing at school or on the beach. Then unscrupulous men, who have a problem with pornography, look at our daughters with sick and twisted sexual desires. We complain about the pastor not being in touch with reality, while we make ridiculous statements like, “If my boss would just give me a raise, I would work harder.” We have the audacity to complain about our pastors “not preaching it hard enough” on subjects we think he should. And then we sit at a restaurant, stuffing our faces, and conveniently push away the Scriptures that clearly tell us gluttony is a sin.
I too, as a minister of the gospel, have sat with fellow ministers and felt justified to speak against other ministers and the way they go about ministering. I’ve spoken against, preached against, and even made fun of other religions that don’t believe like I do. I’ve gone as far as claiming that, “If you don’t like what you are hearing here, you can go down the street to one of the other churches where they will let you do whatever you want.” Why would I say such things? How could I feel so justified to speak against a fellow minister, or another religion? Can I honestly say that they don’t love God with the same level of passion, simply because they don’t serve God the same way I do?
Yes, I am guilty! I too, as a minister of the gospel, have made statements like “Well, the one thing we can do is eat!” I too, as a minister of the gospel, have not given to causes when God specifically told me to because I was thinking only of myself and what I wanted, or of my own bills that needed the money, only to get up and “preach it hard” about giving. I too, as a minister of the gospel, have been a guilty party, causing religion to be riddled with problems and too few solutions.
Look at this warning the Lord gives to Ezekiel, “As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, Sodom and her daughters were never as wicked as you and your daughters. Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen.” (Ezekiel 16:48-50 NLT)
The truth is, any of us can sit around and talk about what we disapprove of. Any of us can pick up rocks and throw them at those we don’t like or don’t understand. And any one of us can continue to live in denial about the fact that there is a real problem with religion as we know it today. But the sad fact will still remain. Who will be a part of the solution rather than compounding the problem? When will those who are not being loved start to feel cared about? When will the child who cries himself to sleep at night be loved and embraced by the very hands that now are filled with rocks of ungratefulness and contempt? How long will we ignore the fact that the new babes who come into our churches are seen as little more than “one more that we can get on our side” or “another to add to our clique”? How long will we ignore the fact that our churches, US, WE THE PEOPLE OF THE CHURCH, AND US PASTORS AND EVANGELISTS, have left our passionate love for others behind only to grab hold of our own selfish causes, and conveniently hide it under the banner of “truth?”
Is it enough to keep “fighting for the truth” and say such things as “Well, at least we still hold to the truth,” even though we’ve lost our deep, intimate, passionate connection and love for both God and others? We ignore the problems in society that rage all around us because we’re too caught up in fighting for our causes. Does it really fix the problem to walk away from a church or religion and say, “They just don’t understand how things are! They don’t care about me, or even love me, because if they did they wouldn’t ask such things of me!”
Is there a real problem? Yes! But saints of God, the real problem isn’t religion or every pastor, it’s you! Pastor and Evangelist, the real problem isn’t the people you pastor or preach to, it’s you! It’s me! It’s our selfish pride and ambition! We don’t want to say the words, “I’m sorry.” We tell ourselves, “He’s the pastor, he should know better! Let him come to me first,” Or “I’m the pastor! They’re the rebellious sheep! Let them come to me first!” WHEN DO THE SHEEP GET LOVED IN EITHER OF THESE TWO SCENARIOS?
We can live with denial all we like, but one day, selfish saint, selfish pastor, and evangelist, we will give an answer to God as to why we let religion become this way! Anyone can point out a problem, but few are willing, or even care to know how to fix it. Some who read this will focus on one or two lines and will twist the words and meanings so that they will be justified in being angry, and not have to fix what is broken in their own heart.
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands: “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do. “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:1-7 NLT)
“You have heard that our ancestors were told, `You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” (Matthew 5:21-24 NLT)