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What’s Wrong With Religion?
 

After many years of pastoring churches, I resigned and moved to LA to publish and do other things. I wanted to find a church I enjoyed attending. Instead, I soon began to see why people distrust religion and why they often dislike churches so intensely. Almost every sermon I heard in most churches I sampled used guilt to motivate people. Conservative preachers use guilt on moral issues, while liberals work us over on our social conscience. But today, most people won’t let themselves “Shoulded on” for long. And they shouldn’t.  

Bad religion is the problem. The word religion is used only three times in the entire Bible, twice it’s negative. The third time defines true religion: “Anyone who sets himself up as ‘religious’ by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world” (James 1: 26-27, The Message). 

This fascinating passage says true religion addresses both liberal social ethics and conservative personal morality. Good religion is caring for the needy -- actively, personally care for them, not demand that the government do so. And we must keep ourselves free from worldly corruption.  

So, if sermons aren’t laced with guilt what should they say? May I suggest that blessing and reasonable practical counsel would help much more than guilt?

 Think with me about the greatest sermon ever preached, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It begins with the Beatitudes, a handful of amazing comments that defy conventional wisdom. Blessed are the poor (not the rich), the mourners (not the stoic), the meek (not those who feel wonderful about themselves), the hungry (not the satiated), the merciful (not the judgmental), the pure in heart (not super studs), the peace makers (not the argumentative), and even those who are persecuted. Astonishing! These people are blessed?  

But Jesus gently explains why they are blessed, and He doesn’t use a shred of guilt. The poor inherit God’s Kingdom. Mourners receive comfort. Peacemakers are God’s true children. The persecuted also receive His Kingdom. There’s method to God’s madness, reason behind His apparent irrationality. Everything in God’s Kingdom is upside down but it all makes perfect sense.

 This is what religion too seldom does for people: helping them find a better life. Instead, it too often lays out an endless variety of perfectionistic ‘shoulds’ without helping them see why it’s in their own interest to obey.  

Every person regularly tunes into WIFM – What’s In It For Me. God knows we are hopelessly selfish, so every time he tells us to do something or refrain from it He carefully explains why. We don’t need to be ‘guilted’ if we understand God’s ways. The people knew God’s words but Moses understood God’s ways. It’s what made Him a great leader. If we want to create the next generation of godly leaders, we must also help them understand God’s ways. His ways seem unfathomable, often defying human wisdom, but a man of understanding can search them out and communicate them to those he loves.

 So if guilt is out, what should take its place? The New Testament is clear on this. Church is where people are loved. 

A small boy scurried across frigid Chicago on a blustery winter day. A churchgoer stopped him and asked where he was going in such a hurry. He said Pastor Dwight Moody’s church. “Why?” he asked the boy. “That’s miles from here. There’s a fine church on this corner you can attend.” To which the child said, “They love people ya’ there mister,” and hurried off to get what he really needed.

 What would happen if the church became a place where people loved each other instead of judging them? Mother Theresa said you can’t judge someone while you are loving them. What if we stop laying trips on folks and instead create an environment where true wisdom can be shared, with real understanding? What if we stopped talking at people and created more opportunities to listen? 

 Jesus’ greatest wisdom was dispensed when people interrupted his agenda. What if church became the first place people came for help instead of their last resort? What if preachers climbed down from their pulpits and got real with the folks like the Apostle Paul did? What if they began to feed their sheep instead of beat them? What if they healed their wounds instead of opening more up?

 Naa, that wouldn’t be good. We could never build big enough places to hold all the people.

 



Ken Unger is President of OnlyGodsFinest.com and founder of TransformationIncorporated.com, where you can learn more about him and his transformative ministry. click here ,
 "Ken's new book, The Ultimate Breakthrough, goes beyond self help to self healing. You can preview it at The Ultimate Breakthrough "
 
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