Can You Hate Religion but Love Jesus?
Posted by January 27, 2012on
A viral video explains why the composer has come to “hate religion but love Jesus.” It has deeply resonated with millions of young people. Why is that? And is it really possible, or right, to believe you can hate the one and love the other? What does the Bible say?
One of the latest YouTube videos to go viral is called “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus,” a poem written and recorded by 22-year-old Jefferson Bethke. It has received more than 17 million hits and kindled quite a controversy.
This section sums up the point of the poem:
Now back to the topic, one thing I think is vital to mention,
How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums,
One is the work of God, one is a man-made invention,
One is the cure and one is the infection.
Because Religion says do, Jesus says done.
Religion says slave, Jesus says son,
Religion puts you in shackles but Jesus sets you free.
Religion makes you blind, but Jesus lets you see.
Is all that really true?
What is religion?
In the poem religion is synonymous with systematic hypocrisy, merciless condemnation and self-righteousness, and it is clear from the huge reaction to the poem that many young people believe that is an accurate description of much of organized Christianity today.
The word religion is used only a handful of times in the Bible; only in the New Testament. It comes from a Greek word that can mean “pious; careful of the outward aspects of divine service.”
In one passage where the word is used, James clearly warns against hypocrisy in one’s religion. James 1:26 states, “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.”
If we don’t practice what we preach, our religion is truly vain.
Let’s be honest, there is a lot of pretty visible hypocrisy in Christianity today. We’ve all heard news stories of pedophile priests and adulterous televangelists, of people who preach one thing to others while practicing something far different. And if we go to church, we’ve probably witnessed people, even leaders, who have behaved pretty badly at times.
Of course, all of us have behaved pretty badly at times, something we should remember before we contemplate casting any stones. No human being is going to get life totally right and never make a mistake.
The Bible shows a crucial key to understanding the confused state of Christianity today: Not all who preach Christ truly represent Him.
The apostle Paul warned Christians about false teachers preaching a twisted gospel about Jesus: “For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” (2 Corinthians 11:4).
Paul states that such false teachers, usually deceived themselves (Revelation 12:9), actually function as deceiving ministers of Satan: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, emphasis added).
This state of affairs represents most of modern, deceived “Christianity.”
In contrast, Jesus called His true disciples a “little flock” (Luke 12:32). The Church Jesus founded has always been small, and it will be so until His return to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth. And someone can only come to Jesus, and that little flock, when the Father miraculously draws him (John 6:44).
Jesus founded the Church
Jesus promised: “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). That little church will never die out from a lack of members, and Jesus will always be its head and guide its work.
Today, most Christians have fallen for the lie that Jesus did everything and that Christians have nothing to do but believe (“religion says ‘do’, Jesus says ‘done’”). Ironically, this lie has actually played a part in much of the hypocrisy in modern Christianity.
In reality, Jesus requires obedience from those who would follow Him. He said, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). He chastised people for abandoning God’s commandments and replacing them with traditions (Mark 7:9). And He asked in Luke 6:46, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” No one is saved by obedience, but it is absolutely required of Christians.
No human is perfect; all fall short even in the Church Jesus built. But it is through submitting to His will and guidance that people can arrive at true religion: love toward God and love toward others shown by living, with God’s help, a new way of life that rejects sin (Matthew 22:36-40). As James wrote, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
We can’t love Jesus without loving that religion.
Joel Meeker is regional director for the francophone areas on behalf of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.