Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 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.
James 1:19-27 (ESV)
Why are Christians so anti-religion today?
The hot garbage of “It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship” preaches a different sentiment than what the Bible preaches.
The sentiment comes from a misunderstanding of what religion is. So here’s the dictionary definition:
the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods; a particular system of faith and worship; a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance
For some reason, Christian culture today seems to think that religion refers to the set of rules and regulations. And therefore their definition of religion is trying to earn salvation through the law.
For the passage above, it’s clear that religion doesn’t meet this definition. You may say it’s the translation, but I looked up this passage in all the major versions: ESV, King James, New King James, New International Version, New Living Translation, American Standard Version, even the useless Message version, and they all use the word RELIGION very clearly in verses 26 and 27.
So, according to the contemporary version of Christianity, where religion is a negative, we shouldn’t visit orphans and widows in their affliction? We shouldn’t keep ourselves unstained from the world?
People today separate our relationship with God from our discipline as a Christian when the two are connected. By following the disciplines of constant prayer and meditation in the Word, we grow closer to God. Even following the law of the Old Testament shows our love for God.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”
God cares about our religion, in every sense of the word. And honestly, to put the “It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship” thing on Christianity only serves to make Christianity easy, which according to the Bible is not how it should be.
I recently went to a church service in which the passage at the top was used for the lesson. And he replaced every instance of the word “religion” with “authentic faith.” Despite the Bible translators thinking religion was the best equivalent we had of the word used here, he decided “authentic faith” was the way to go. That’s not okay. We can’t change the Bible so it fits with what we’ve been led to know. We need to change what we know so it fits what we’re taught in the Bible.
We need to stop teaching everyone that religion is inherently bad. It’s false teaching, and it waters down Christianity. Just something to think about.