Christian Clichés: The Things We Say #4

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!

4 comments

  1. Joy S. says:

    I just saw a link to the video, and I remembered I had to check your site. 😉 I was a little worried last night (your morning I would presume, or whenever it was we were commenting back and forth) because you could go to either extreme with this, and I wanted to point out that it really depends on how you define “religion”. But then my comment section started misbehaving. =P Anyway, I’m really grateful for your balanced approach. While we are not saved by our works, our faith, if it is sincere, will be evidenced in our works, in our love. Works without heart-faith aren’t born of love because the heart is incapable of true love apart from the life of the Spirit; thus love is the best test of sincerity. And a sincere zeal could just as well be called “religion” (I find Spurgeon likes to use the word this way) as hypocritical zeal (which plenty of other theologians will also use it as). Discernment is necessary with issues like this, and I find that in your balanced picking apart of both sides of the issue you demonstrate great discernment. Long comment. =D As always, great post!

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this last night as well. It was helpful in getting my thoughts in order. 🙂 It is definitely a delicate balance here. We don’t want to stray away from one extreme, only to end up in our own. It is important that we keep our eyes on the Bible and what it has to say. Thanks for reading, Joy! 🙂

    • Hey Lena! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂 Like I said, I actually thought the video was pretty good and that the guy had a valid point. I wouldn’t even fully lay the blame on him for using the word “religion” rather than “moralism” or “legalism.” The truth is, using any other word, he probably would have confused more people than he got to, because religion is simply the way the our world defines legalism. In the end, I would have liked him to use another word, but I’m not even sure what word he could have used… I mean, this is what religion has come to mean in the world and that’s a word that people understand.
      Apart from that, this guy presents a strong image of the gospel and while I may not say everything in exactly the words he used, I think he should be commended – not condemned – for the ministry that he is doing.
      The link you shared made some good points. We have to make sure that we don’t lump all religions in with legalism by using the word religion. He seems to agree that there’s a problem with using the word religion here. At the same time, this writer seemed a little too critical and degrading. If he does believe that this movie is wrong and wants to convince others who like the video of that, then he needs to realize that saying it like he does is only going to make them defensive. It is crucial that we remember to love one another, even when correcting, and that we keep in mind that we’re all fallen human beings and prone to mistakes and weaknesses. It’s only by God’s grace that we understand what we do. 🙂
      Thank you for reading, Lena! God bless!

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