Well, here we are in the fourth installment of this new series on Christian Clichés! Last time we looked at the saying Christianity isn’t rules, it’s a relationship. Today, we’re going to be looking at a saying that’s in a similar category:
“God hates religion.”
There’s a video that’s been going around Facebook (perhaps you’ve already seen it) called Why I hate religion, but love Jesus. In this video, the guy has a valid point. I really can’t argue with what he has to say. But it does seem as though he’s using religion as a synonym for moralism (i.e. seeking to gain or keep God’s favor by performance). And honestly, this is the way that this culture uses that word, when religion itself can simply be defined as:
Something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience.
So when it comes to saying “God hates religion,” you really have to examine what your definition of religion is before you can determine if the saying is biblical.
According to the bible, this is what the Christian religion looks like:
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
But this isn’t simply a check list; it isn’t meant to be taken that way. The Bible tells us in Romans 4:4-5:
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.
In other words, it’s not what we do that saves us. Instead, what we do is a response to what He’s already done to save us. To quote the previous post in this series:
We are… called to obey God, to be faithful to Him, to honor Him… but all of this should be rooted in our heart’s response to His love. If we love God.. we will desire to serve Him in the way that He desires.
So you could say that religion is the result of our faith in God. Our devotion to God is rooted in our love for Him – because He gave His life for us, we owe our lives to Him and do as His word says, but we aren’t saved by this obedience. When we flip these around and try to say that the works that we do can bring us salvation, we are clinging to a false religion.
You see, it isn’t religion that God hates, but false religion. When people try to please God with their own works in an attempt to gain salvation, it is a slap in the face to the suffering that Christ endured to bring us into His family. You might as well say, “No thanks God, I’m gonna do it my own way.”
And God knows that there’s is no way for you to find salvation through your own works. As the guy in the video said, it’s like spraying perfume on a casket. You may be able to make it smell pretty on the outside, but the inside still holds a rotting corpse. Only a relationship with Christ can revive that dead body.
But this doesn’t mean that we can throw religion right out the window. This is a life-style that cannot be separated from the faith that we have.
Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. -James 2:17-18
While faith is essential, it is always followed by works. And while it isn’t those works that save us, they will be a true sign of the faith that is within us.
So does God hate religion? No. But He does hate the rejection of His salvation for a false religion of our own making.
Faith and religion must remain together; there is no separating them. The important thing is that we understand them in light of God’s word and keep them in their proper place.
What are your thoughts on this saying?
Are there any sayings that you would like to be included in this series? Let me know!