Just about two years ago, I started a business call 46:10 Ministries, with an associated web site called God and Our Country. The sole purpose of the business and web site is to share positive messages and provide positive Christian based resources, WITHOUT political or religious influence or bias. However, I often get challenged by people who say; “How can you say you promote a religion free service if you’re primary purpose is to share and promote Christianity?”
This is a very interesting question and the key to understanding the true meaning of the Bible and the new covenant Jesus came to earth to share with all of us. We understand the question because many people feel that a belief in Jesus, His message, and the Bible itself, is indeed religion. For some this may be true, but for most this is not the case.
There are various definitions of religion. The Oxford definition is “a particular system of faith and worship.” Webster says religion is an “institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” Wikipedia defines religion as “a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that generally relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, and spiritual elements.”
You notice each definition sites a “system” of beliefs and attitudes. Thus, the various Christian systems represent religion. The Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics, and all the other variations of Christian based religions have their own “systems” of beliefs. Each of these “systems” are based on some fundamental belief that the Bible and Jesus should be understood a certain way in line with their belief. While I certainly support any group that helps bring the Bible and Jesus to its followers, I do not believe these “system” based views and interpretations are literally aligned to the Word of God. Because these “systems” each have their own biases and interpretations which may or may not be consistent with the Word.
For example, one particular “religion” says you must be a “member and active follower” of their religion to be able to take communion. Yet the very communion, which they are controlling who receives these sacraments, was given by Jesus for ALL His believers, not just these particular religions followers. Matthew 26:26 tells us: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Nowhere in the Bible will you find Jesus identifying any “religion” as a preference or particular need. The closest reference you will find is the differentiation between the Jewish people and all others, generally referred to as the Gentiles. But everything Jesus said and did was equally inclusive of all Jews and Gentiles – He made no designation between one or the other, as all are subject to the Word of God. In fact, Jesus often befriended the people deemed the least acceptable and those most despised and rejected. Because all people are God’s children and all equally loved and guided by the Word of God.
The problem becomes when we take religion so passionately that we harm, ignore, or rebuke others for their particular religions’ beliefs. For the past few weeks, my wife and I have toured England, Ireland, and Scotland. Three countries clearly divided in their beliefs, but all dedicated to the love and Words of Jesus Christ and of God. Yet their histories are full of religious persecution and violence against each other. Other examples show the “inquisition” and the “crusades” as other violent and oppressive religious movements, meant to seek out and destroy those who did not align with their particular religious views.
Even Jesus’ disciples questioned Him including women, and associating with Samaritans and others who were customarily disliked or shunned by the Jews and the Gentiles. But Jesus would have none of these biases, because all are loved by the Father, and so to Jesus would show His love and compassion to all, regardless of their religious views or beliefs. When Jesus met the woman at the well, he made it clear that all people were loved by Him and the Father. John 4 tells us: “The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
In fact, the most disagreement and disapproval Jesus showed during His time on Earth, was with the religious leaders themselves. Jesus often questioned and ridiculed them because they had twisted the Words of God and taught false liturgy to the masses. Matthew 22:29 tells us what
Jesus said to the Sadducees: “Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
When being challenged by the Pharisees, Matthew 15 tells us Jesus responded: “Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
“ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ ”
Human rules and traditions – this is what “religion” represents. Jesus made it clear the scriptures and Word of God are the only standard for which we are to live. This is why I want to exclude “Religious” bias from our business, the web site, and our messages. Many in society shy away from Christians and Christianity because of the religious biases they have seen and been impacted by. Yet these people would truly love to embrace the incredible love and grace of Jesus and The Father, but they don’t see it portrayed by many Christians.
We need to live, talk, and walk only the Word of God and of Jesus. We need to shed those religious biases and use only the Word as our guiding light and principles. We need to focus on the “Red Letters” of the Word. As we know, the Red Letters are the Words of Jesus Christ. Jesus explained to us, as He did the woman at the well, that He is the Word and the water of life. John 4 continues to explain what Jesus conveyed: “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”