Guest Post by Megan Duggins
**Disclaimer: the following post is not meant to attack the many amazing things the church has done on behalf of The Gospel. I’m discussing the difference of “religion”, which in my personal use is when there is theological knowledge and good works, but no personal relationship with Jesus.
As the daughter of a pastor, I have seen first-hand the many faces of the church. I have many incredible experiences that have helped drive my desire to be a part of ministry. I have also had many experiences that have caused me to question the infrastructure of what we now call the modern church. Having grown up with a father who taught me to love deeply and fight passionately for matters I believe in, I always struggled with how religiosity created a deep divide in the church. Allow me to paint a picture of a common occurrence within the church. On one side sits those who can quote endless scripture and claim membership to a church for an “x” amount of years. While on the other side sits those, who have a deep relationship with Jesus, but have a past that most people would consider, “unappealing.” What makes one sinner more “savable” than the other?”
In my eyes, “religion” is the main culprit.
When people get to know me, one of the statements that usually comes up is, “Oh, so you’re really religious?” Which I usually respond to by saying “I wouldn’t call myself religious, I would say I love Jesus.”
To me, there is a big difference.
Throughout the Bible, we are warned of how religion leads to a self-imposed destruction. Why? Because at the core of religion, you are most likely to find motives of self-worship. Think of the most religious people described in the Bible-the Pharisees. One of the reasons they were called “vipers” by Jesus is because they had endless biblical knowledge yet conducted themselves in a duplicitous manner. They were disconnected from the Lord on a personal level, which allowed them to twist truth and use the Bible for their own empowerment. To me, that is “religion” at work- creating an environment of judgement and condemnation. With religion, you can puff yourself up with knowledge and good works, but never experience the convicting power of Jesus. Religion makes you think of yourself as a god, and when you embrace that mindset, you don’t need anyone, not even Jesus.
Religion breeds spiritual isolation.
I challenge you to read through the chapters on the early church. There is a oneness and unity that can only be explained by Jesus Christ. When you truly experience the life-changing grace of Jesus, your heart towards others changes. That is a stark contrast to religion. Religion calls for self-sufficiency with no accountability. Where Jesus calls us to embrace our differences and come together as one body, religion calls for division and comparison. Where Jesus calls for conviction and repentance, religion calls for pomp and self-righteousness. One leads to freedom and the other leads to bondage. One calls to live by grace, one calls for judgement.
As believers, we can come together as one because of our heart-felt love for Christ. We can put aside ethnicity, background, political preferences, etc. to come together as one at the feet of Jesus. I challenge you to consider what has caused you to have the current perspective you have on the church. When you embrace the body of Christ, the church becomes a platform for you to serve, not just to be served. It becomes an avenue for deep connections with brothers and sisters in the faith, not to compare who is “more righteous.” How you view your fellow church family can reveal a lot about the state of your current relationship with Christ.
James 1:22 states “but be doers of the word, and not hearers only…” (ESV). Knowledge of Jesus can only go so far. He calls us to action. To truly follow Jesus means our relationship with Him must be anything but passive.
Jesus calls us to more.