Religion: Back to the Basics

If a comparison is to be made between following Jesus Christ and Religion, the first logical step is to define the terms, and thus we go back to the basics.

To follow Jesus Christ is to have a relationship with Him, a deep and intimate personal relationship, and then to go where He leads. We have as our example His relationship with the disciples in the Gospels, and the funny thing is that they continually found themselves at odds with the religious authorities of their day because Jesus did not lead them into religious orthodoxy. Quite the contrary in fact, their conflict was so great that the religious authorities set about to kill first Jesus, and later His followers.

Let’s be fair about this, however, for we live in a different time and place, and our contact with religious leaders is not the same as the contact experienced by Jesus and the disciples.

Yet there are similarities.

So then, what is exactly is “religion”?

According to Merriam-Webster “religion” is

“the service or worship of God or the supernatural”, “commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance”, “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices”, “scrupulous conformity”, “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”. (See complete entry)

The word is commonly used to mean the service or worship of God or the supernatural; that is clear enough, but consider the rest of the definition; there is where our problems lie. You can see that “religion” can apply to a great deal more than the worship of God if it requires conformity in our attitudes to an institutionalized system, and if you really think about it, things like atheism or Socialism or Communism or Fascism even can be said to fall into the definition of a “religion”.

But that’s a conversation for another time…

For our purposes today, I’ll simply leave you with a fairly simple question:

What part of following Jesus Christ, or if you prefer, following the leading of the Holy Spirit, can be confined to a man-made religion?

Naturally, I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and I’ll be sharing mine in the next few days- see you tomorrow!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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13 Responses to Religion: Back to the Basics

  1. Mel Wild says:

    I’m not sure what you’re asking because you’re grouping following the Holy Spirit and man-made religion together, which could be two very different things. But, if you’re asking for similarities, there are many activities that look similar on the outside but could come from entirely different motivations. For instance, I may serve in soup kitchen and provide for the poor for totally secular
    and even narcissistic reasons: because I’m trying to make myself look righteous and generous, or assuage my guilty conscience, or because it’s my turn on a sign-up sheet, or because everyone else in my group is doing so. But, led by the Spirit, I could be doing the exact same service out of genuine love and compassion, because God is leading me in that activity. Both reasons look the same on the outside but are opposite motivations. One is inspired by the Spirit, the other is “man-made.”

  2. I don’t think Jesus set about to create a “religion” in our current, or even 1st C. terms. Everything about his ministry seems to point to that. He created no “rules” to follow, set up no building or temple, I think he realized that hadn’t worked in 3,000 years of trying. Compare it to a diet regimen, setting forth requirements to follow don’t work, you have to change bad habits and replace them with good ones. Jesus replaced +600 rules with a way of life (“The Way” if you will) that was simple: love everyone, even your enemies. Judge no one. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated. He created a group of teachers, not popes or bishops, no Sanhedrin. No, I don’t think he was trying to set up a religion at all.

  3. Tom says:

    I will say that Christianity is a religion, just not made by man, but by God. By Webster’s definition it is a religion because we do worship God. We also do follow some rules. God gave many rules, Jesus reinforced those rules.

    Jesus also said that if we love Him we will obey Him. We cannot obey if there are no commands or rules to follow.

    There is also James 1:27 that talks about the religion God accepts.

    However, like everything it can be corrupted by man. Men have placed rules that God did not, changing it to a man made religion and not true Christianity.
    Better stop for now. I could go on, but these are a few of my thoughts. I enjoy your posts.

  4. sullivanspin says:

    I’ve been reading Galatians and Paul opens up with the fact that it was God’s idea to make Paul an apostle. I wonder if “man-made” religion is simply adding requirements to salvation that weren’t God’s idea. Legalism?

  5. I think people equate religion with organization. The Bible says organization is to be on the local level. And since even on the local level we can get over-organized, I’m in favor (as I’ve told you before) of demolishing all church buildings and meeting in homes. True, we won’t provide services to the community like the big congregations do, but compared with personally encouraging each other, I think that brings about even greater results. We have no choice in small groups but to reveal ourselves to each other as we worship and encourage. (Of course, as the group grows, it needs to subdivide again. And that’s a good thing.)

    • Don Merritt says:

      You’ve described what one professor I know calls “the Organic Church” that is comprised of a bunch of small groups that all come together once a week to celebrate the resurrection and to pool resources together to influence the community for Christ.

  6. Bette Cox says:

    “Confined?” None. Christians are inhabited by God himself (which is the very basic difference between Christianity and any so-called religion), although they still have their own brains and will, of course. If He wants He-in-us to go to Walmart at 10 AM on a Tuesday, he’ll tell us. And if we’re smart, we’ll take him there! I suspect Father God’s sense of humor leads him to laugh at us a lot, and perhaps this question would give him a chuckle.

  7. Pingback: Religion: Back to the Basics — TLP – quietmomentswithgod

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