Hi! I believe in Christ and I’m experiencing His love and grace on me. I love Him but I’m so annoyed and I hate religion. I hate when people criticize others. I hate how religion divide people. I hate how they always debate who is right and wrong, true and not. I believe that His love is for everyone, that He gives us rest and in Him there is no condemnation. I’ve been in to other churches but sometimes I just don’t agree to what they say. Is it okay this is how I feel? Ugh.
Hey my lovely friend: It’s definitely okay to feel this way about “organized religion” and the disunity you see in the mainstream church. It’s right to get angry at condemnation, legalism, hate, and oversized doctrine-heads.
But please allow me the grace to gently challenge you on one simple thing.
It’s easy for me to express discontent with the church because there’s definitely so much wrong with the flesh-driven, man-made, bully-infested hierarchy of smugness in our Christian subculture. It’s easy for me to say, “Look at those Pharisees, those uptight religious bigots. Thank God I’m totally not like them.” And you would be right to say that, because you have enough clarity to see how moralism kills us.
Yet the criticism we throw at the religious tends to turn into its very own sort of legalism, until we’re in a perpetual loop of grudges and animosity and division. Making a distinction against what is wrong always begins with the noble intention of loving people, but we easily boost our own egos when we think “I’m one of the good Christians.” We’re all prone to an elevated platform, because you know, we’re all sinners. The devil is laughing his butt off over this.
I would say that 98% of Christian blogs I read are just reactionary finger-pointing separatists that always reeks of an attitude that says, “I’m not like those other Christians.” We tend to eat our own and shoot the wounded. I’m well aware that even by me saying this, I’m totally defeating my own point too. But my heart really does grieve for unity, with hope and grace even for the overbearing legalists.
You see, the nuanced love of Jesus included even the worst offenders of love. Jesus had grace for those who abused grace. He not only befriended Peter, Martha, Paul, Thomas, and the Samaritan woman at the well, but he also loved Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea and Jairus the synagogue leader. Jesus’s love was so off the map that he loved people we could never imagine approaching, because he smashed all those dichotomous binary categories.
It’s probably cool to point at Pharisees and legalists and the religious. You can have a really popular blog by making fun of uptight church culture and satirizing poppy praise songs and even mocking traditional liturgy. I guess it’s funny sometimes. But it lacks thoughtfulness. It lacks consideration. It lacks the grace to see the whole story, to understand how it got so bad, to truly sympathize with how a hateful person became so wounded and mad.
Of course, please leave the room if there’s obvious hatred and bigotry. Please speak truth when you see that love is not the goal. I would never make excuses for some of the atrocious misguided hate we see today.
But I really believe the true Christian can eventually cross over party lines, not for the sake of looking flexible, but because the line is hardly visible. What Jesus did on the cross was shrunk us to our true size by equalizing both our sin and our need for grace. Jesus wants the heart of the worst rebellious porn addict to those picketers at Westboro to the greediest politician to the most destitute homeless child. Only grace offers the sort of hope to see a person beyond their category into God’s very own creation.
Without that sort of hope, even if it’s just a tiny grain of mercy, then we will remain stuck in superiority disguised as higher knowledge. We will remain snobby while thinking we are “more balanced” than the “other.” To hate a legalist is still legalism. Only with the humility that the Gospel offers, can we begin to dismantle all the fallenness of our cultures and reconstruct them with the life that Jesus poured out for us from his broken tomb.