Definitions Matter...Is Religion Bad?

    Religion has gotten a bum rap. If you have spent any time on Facebook in recent weeks then you have likely seen the, “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus” video. This is not a new sentiment by any means, but it is communicated in a compelling and unique way by a very talented young man. It strikes a nerve in the younger generation because it expresses much of what we’ve (or they’ve – I’m not exactly the younger generation anymore) felt at one time or another. The poet also speaks about issues that are very real and present in the church.
    But here is the problem, he has too limited of a definition of “religion.” In a follow-up interview the author explains what he means by the term religion.  He says, “the word “religion” is pretty much synonymous with hypocrisy, legalism, self-righteousness, and self-justification. That was really the heart of my definition of that word…[T]o me, those words are interchangeable.” Well if that’s what we’re talking about then I’m right on board with his sentiments. Unfortunately these words are not interchangeable and using them in that manner confuses the issue.
    Jesus certainly had a problem with self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and legalism. His treatment of the Pharisees and Sadducees bears this out, but he also fulfilled the law perfectly in his life. That is true “religion” as the Scriptures use it. Conforming to and obeying God out of love for Him and love for one another. The entire book of James is about true religion, works brought forth in the life of a disciple as a result of faith in the Son of God; “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 by the world.” Follow that up with passages such as, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food and one of you says to them ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” and “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Religion isn't bad, just worthless religion.
    So no, I do not hate religion, but love Jesus. I love religion that is true and I love Jesus.