I hope you were blessed by Roy’s message Sunday on Religion.  If you missed it, I encourage you to go to Northstar.cc and listen to the podcast. I would like to add a few thoughts on the subject of religion.

Do you remember the “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” video that Jefferson Bethke posted on YouTube. The video had good background music, a strong emotional appeal, catchy rhyme, and in a relatively short time went viral. Part of the words are as follows:

“What if I told you, Jesus came to abolish religion? What if I told you getting you to vote Republican, really wasn’t his mission?And:

This is what makes religion and Jesus two different clans, Religion is man searching for God, but Christianity is God searching for man. And:

Because the problem with religion is that it never gets to the core, It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores…”

In an interview, Bethke said the video was not an attempt to bash all religion, but rather “to write a poem against legalism, self righteousness, self-justification and hypocrisy.”  Bethke is the latest in a long list of people who wonder whether religion gets in the way of following Jesus. A popular book back in the 70’s was entitled “How to be a Christian Without Being Religious.  It had much the same theme and the same messages. If we did away with religion, would we also do away with the bad connotations that religion and Christianity have accumulated? Or is religion a convenient scapegoat for those who have had a bad experience with a church or religion and have shut their mind to any future efforts to reach them.

Another question is whether religion is a negative for Christians. Religion often gets blamed when relationships with God are flat. Or, when people are not prepared or expect to get hit by a “giant” truck or two.  Religion is why we are always worrying about how other people are living or not living their lives and placing judgement on them.  Religion is why we measure ourselves by others.  And religion is why we are so consumed with the “thou shalt not’s” and religious rules that we have no time to be kind, generous, forgiving, serving, reverent and respectful.

I have never been concerned with religion. Because It’s not about religion, it is about putting God first, and to live for Him. Religion does not help me do that.  I want to be an authentic learner or follower of Christ.   Matthew 22:37-39 gives us the rules of engagement to be a follower of Jesus: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” I don’t want to be measured by how well I adhere to the “thou shalt nots” or follow the rules, but for the depth of my love for people. And, by asking myself, ”am I loving as Christ loved me?” Therefore, following Jesus is not a religious program or a ministry; rather it is a lifelong commitment to a lifestyle that honors the Lord.

Jesus said it best when he spoke of taking up the cross and following him. I think for all of us it’s a daily (moment by moment) thing that I’ve far from mastered.  But, our goal should be to be more like Jesus, not to be more religious.  Frankly, I don’t even know what being religious means.

I know what being like Jesus means. Does my life look like Jesus’ life, do His words describing a follower of Him match my life.  For example, Jesus’ core character trait was humility which led to submission. There are so many ways where trying to live like Jesus would improve our lives significantly.

Northstar is not about religion, it is about how we as the church are called to love, and to be that reflection of Christ, and imitate His life . Can we say like Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Do we love like Jesus? Do I serve others as Jesus? Those are the questions that we need to ask ourselves?  Answers to those questions will tell us if we are religious and content with the average Christian life or if we are serious about following Jesus.

I pray that you won’t get hung up or caught up in religion, because religion does not really matter. Following Jesus and striving to be more like Him is the only thing that truly matters.