There is a Youtube video someone shared with me called Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus. The idea was to suggest that Jesus came to abolish religion and the important part of Christianity is believing in Jesus and that's enough. Well, I'm here to tell you that's not enough.
I'm not talking about "works" based Christianity. I don't think that if we love Jesus and prove it to him by the list of good deeds we do we'll earn our way into heaven. I'm also not talking about "rules based" Christianity. I don't think that if I dress the right way and speak the right way and have the most beautiful church that I'll be able to charm my way into heaven.
Jesus made it pretty simple; Love God and your neighbor as yourself. James 2:19 (NKJV) says
"You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!" Is it enough to believe in Jesus? He tells us that if we love Him we will do what He says.
When Jesus commissioned the Apostles to go out into the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit He was establishing the Church. The Apostles went out and taught people about what Christ had done and showed them by example, and through their writing, what to do, how to live, how to worship, how to pray and how to be true followers of Christ.
When someone decides to join the military they pledge to learn, act and live within the terms and conditions set up by whichever branch they serve in. Barring a draft, no one forces a person to join our military, it is free will. Once a person has made that choice no one argues and says, "well, I really don't think I need basic training so I'll pass on that part. I also don't want to do certain types of patrols or work late nights. By the way, I'm going to have to insist on weekends off." That would be crazy and our armed forces would not be organized enough to accomplish anything. Why do we think in Christianity that we can make our own rules? Why do we think we get to pick and choose what it means to follow Jesus? He tells us it will be hard and that the path is narrow and that we may be made fun of and possibly even killed. He doesn't force us to follow Him, He leaves that choice entirely up to us.
There was an article someone posted this morning from Huffington Post called, WWJD: What Would Jesus Do? Do You Really Want to Know? In this article the author tells a story about a mother who gave her son a bracelet with WWJD on it and encouraged him to look at it before doing anything so he could make good choices in living a Christian life. In obedience, her son then went and hung out with prostitutes and "sinners", bought a round of beer for some drunk guys, trashed the church bookstore, drove out the pastor with a whip and stood with women who had just had an abortion calling out to the protesters, "You who are without sin, throw the first stone!" This mother then gave her son a WWAPD bracelet instead. This stood for What Would a Pharisee Do? This son became a model "Christian" and tithed, was a public prayer warrior, condemner of sinners, etc. Is this author suggesting that having a bookstore and a pastor in a church automatically means that church is corrupt and that anyone who tithes, prays in public and upholds the commandments is a Pharisee? There is more to it than that.
Jesus tells us many things. He tells us to LOVE all men, but He does not tell us to condone what all men do. He tells us to HELP the poor and broken without judging (or glorifying) how they got there. In John chapter 8, He tells the men who brought the adulterous woman before him,
“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." And to this precious woman He says, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” He didn't defend her actions, He loved her and encouraged her to live a better way. Jesus says in Matthew 21 “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer, 'but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” He was not condemning the religious services and worship that were taking place in the building but the commercialism/consumerism.
Jesus did not come to "abolish religion". He came to show us a better way. He did not come so we could pick and choose which parts of His message we like best, He came to bring healing and life. He came to redeem us. He came so that we could have RIGHT FAITH and HOPE in the resurrection and the world to come. Humans have made bad choices inside and outside of "religion". James 1 says "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." We are to love unconditionally, give without expectation of anything in return, and keep the "world" from setting the standard in our lives. We are called to live and die for Christ and uphold the faith He established through His Apostles.
In the Divine Liturgy the prayer before communion says, "I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. As Christians we are called to live in repentance, humble ourselves and serve others. We should ask ourselves WWJD. Jesus called sin sin, he accepted sincere offerings, he loved the unlovely, but he also told them to live differently so they could have life everlasting. Christ calls us to follow Him, let us embrace the true faith.