Tag Archives: religion

Jesus is the enemy of dead religion

I just watched (on YouTube) Eric Metaxas speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast February 2, 2012.

Here are two takeaways:

When talking about how he came to faith in Jesus, Metaxas said,

Everything I had rejected about God was actually not God. It was just dead religion. It was phoniness. It was people who go to church and do not show the love of Jesus. It was people who know the Bible and use it as a weapon. It was people who don’t practice what they preach. It was people who are indifferent to the poor and suffering, people who use religion as a way to exclude others from their group, people who use religion as a way to judge others. I had rejected that. But guess what? Jesus had also rejected that. He had railed against that, and called people to real life and real faith. Jesus was and is the enemy of dead religion.

And, speaking to the gathering of our nation’s leaders, known more for bickering and name-calling than for demonstrating God’s love, he boldly proclaimed…

If you can see Jesus in your enemy, then you can know that you are seeing with God’s eyes and not your own. So can you love your enemy? If you cannot pray for those on the other side, if you cannot actually feel the love of God for your enemies, political and otherwise, my friends that’s a sure sign that you are being merely religious, that you have bought into a moral system, but you do not know the God who has forgiven you. Only God can give us that supernatural, agape love for those with whom we disagree.

Amen. May it be so with me. May it be so with all of us.

(Eric Metaxas is the author of two biographies, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery and Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Check out his website.)

The Prodigal Project

A generation of people in their 20s & 30s see Christians and the church as hypocritical and judgmental.

They are aware of Jesus… in fact, many of them grew up in the church. They are comfortable with Jesus’ teachings and moral standards (although their lifestyles may not show it). But they are not aware of, nor are they comfortable with who Jesus is.

They want a life of meaning and purpose, but Jesus and the church have no part in it. They have so stereotyped Christians and the church that they are unable to open their lives to God’s grace. In fact, you might say that Christians and the church have gotten in the way of their relationship with God.

How can they be moved to embrace Jesus – his teachings and his example, as well as his God-with-us identity? Can they be moved to acknowledge the problems in the church, yet embrace it as God’s way of helping us mature as his followers?

On the other hand:

Many Christians in the United States are too comfortable with our religion. Our faith has become institutionalized.

Although some of us are faithful in attending church services… and many are involved in other acts of service to and through the institution, the healing flames of grace and forgiveness have grown cold.

Many of us are focused on the externals of religion rather than our relationship with the Heavenly Father. A daily walk with God has become a well-worn path that can be navigated with our eyes shut… which is exactly the way some of us travel.

Can we be moved to admit our self-righteousness, hypocrisy and judgementalism? Will we drop our pretenses and accept the fact that we need God’s grace on a daily basis?

Can people in both groups be moved to see that they need each other, and that God put us together in the church for that very reason?

Since January 2010, I’ve been reading, thinking, praying and working to figure out a way to answer these questions.

Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 166...

I think Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, as told in Luke 15, speaks directly to the issue. Jesus, of course, was a master communicator. In a few minutes, with a few chosen words, Jesus spoke directly to heart of the Pharisees’ problems. And he did it in earshot of those “tax collectors  and sinners” who needed to know that God is welcoming and accepting of everyone, no matter what their history, race or religion.

Can this story be told in a way that speaks to our 21st Century culture with the same impact that it had when Jesus told it 2,000 years ago?

Working on it… more to come soon. Anybody have any thoughts?