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To Bind Back

by Victor Knowles

When I was a student in Bible College in the 60s I remember Donald G. Hunt telling us that the word religion meant “to tie back” or “to bind back.” I just checked Webster and that is still the root definition. Jesus came to tie us back to God. Now Brother Hunt was as conservative as the day is long, and had little time for false or vain religions, but I distinctly remember him saying one day, “If this world is so bad with religion, just think how bad it would be without religion.” I wonder what he would think today of all the talk about how bad the religion of Christianity is and how all that matters is relationship? I hear it nearly every week in churches I visit and I am appalled at the ignorance and even vitriol that is coming from some pulpits. Excuse me, from some stages (pulpits are not in vogue anymore).

Christianity is the religion of Christ. Jesus came to earth to bring us back or tie us back to God. He said He would build His church and He did. The church is the bride of Christ and I am not into bashing the bride. What would you think of me if I badmouthed your wife? What does Jesus think of those who disparage His bride? People who say “I love Jesus but I can’t stand the church” are walking on mighty thin ice. Those who say “It’s a relationship, not a religion” are likewise on dangerous ground. If religion binds us back to God, what do they want? Freedom from God? Freedom to be their own god and do their own thing? Despising the church is a form of individualism and individualism (idolatry of self) has no part of true Christianity. The church is a body of believers serving God and others, not an individual railing against religion.

In January a video called “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” went viral on Facebook. The young man who made it said, in essence, Jesus came to abolish religion. Then the church came along and re-instituted it, telling people there was a particular way to live in order to be a Christian. Now we need once more to be liberated from the shackles of religion in order to be able to freely worship Jesus. The word religion appears five times in Scripture but never once is it said that Jesus came to abolish religion. In fact, Jesus plainly said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt 5:17).

In fact, James 1:27 speaks of a pure and undefiled religion before God that involves helping the needy and keeping oneself unspotted from the world. Is that what the modern church wants to abolish in the name of Jesus? By what authority would they hate or abolish a religion that is pure in the sight of God? As Evelyn has pointed out in her column (by the way, we both decided to write on this subject unbeknownst to each other), Jesus did not have a problem with religion per se; He was concerned about hypocrisy and legalism.

To say that the church has failed to feed the hungry or care for the poor is either ignorant or hateful. Have they not seen or heard of the soup kitchens, free medical clinics, food pantries, homeless shelters, prison ministries that have all been started, supported, and maintained by organized religion, i.e., the church? Show me the same that have been established by atheists, skeptics, or even anti-religion railers. I have not been to a town or city that did not have good works being done in the name of Jesus by members of an organized religion.

A word about relationship (which, amazingly, is not found in the Bible). I know – or at least I think I know – what the pro-relationship, anti-religion crowd is saying. “It’s all about having a relationship with God.” Is that something new? Give some of us credit for understanding the First and Great Commandment (Matt 22:37-39). “It’s all about having a personal relationship with Christ.” Again, we are quite aware of having a vital connection with our Lord (John 15:1-8). But having a relationship with Christ does not mean we are about to sever ourselves from the church that He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). The religion of Christ binds us back to God. Who would want to sever those ties that bind? Why would they want to sever those ties that bind us to God and to each other? “Blest be the tie that binds / Our hearts in Christian love / The fellowship of kindred minds / Is like to that above.”

Religion or relationship? That is a false dichotomy. Pure religion and Christ-centered relationship? That is a true doctrine.

Victor Knowles lives in Joplin, MO and is the Director of P.O.E.M. (Peace on Earth Ministries)

 




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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8