Visible Religion

Nearly always, it’s easier to see religiousness in others well before seeing it in yourself. This is not only true of religious tendencies, but all manner of shortcomings and undesirable personal qualities.

Scrutinizing others and holding yourself harmless is quite nearly a universal tendency.

Just because you can see the hollowness of ceremony in others, does it mean you are above it or free from such? No.

We would do ourselves a huge favor to realize this.

But what should be our approach to calling out religion and it’s false assertions while keeping this in mind?

“Therefore you have no excuse, you foolish person, everyone of you who passes judgment; for in that matter in which you judge someone else, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, you foolish person who passes judgment on those who practice such things, and yet does them as well, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and restraint and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭2‬:‭1‬-‭4‬ ‭NASB2020‬‬

Passing judgement or extending grace, these seem to be opposites

The essence of religion as I am referring to it here is the establishment of one’s own righteousness based on what is perceived to be righteous acts and / or morality. Self righteousness is an expression of religion in this sense. In another sense, it can be relating to God and things holy on the basis of “works” instead of being built on trust in the finished work of Christ. There is an age old struggle of ideas that surrounds this.

In my background and the area where I was raised, going to church is the religion, and being “in church” is the righteousness. I am pretty sure all the people who agreed to crucify Jesus were “in church”. I am not sure that is the best way to be sure that you are loving God and making Him the center of your life. Religion, as I am referring to it here, for all of it’s piety and self discipline, still has you at the center.

Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart, one once famously said. And, oh by the way, He is the only one who can see the heart. This sets up a weird situation. All human estimation is based on externally observable things, and that’s the limit of it’s scope. God is greater than man in this way, and in every way. For this reason, it’s better for us not to judge (read impose our estimation of someone else with a sense of complete certainty and especially harshness) others. “To their own master they rise or the fall”, I remember reading. Let’s reserve a measure of grace for others, all others. And hope, and pray, for their recovery and for their advance, no matter the folly that might have entangled them.

If we all depend on something outside ourselves for redemption, then we all depend on something outside ourselves for redemption. No matter your station or exalted position, righteousness that you walk in (if any) didn’t originate in and with you. We would do well to keep this ever in mind, and behave as though it were and is true.

Religion is what you are left with when Jesus leaves the building – Bono

Although I have some sharp differences of view with the author of this quote, to this I couldn’t agree more! He makes a great point… sublime in it’s simplicity.

Nobody told us or helped us understand that in our quest to eradicate religion we could become the most religious of all people! In order to defeat religion in your own heart, you have to stop fighting it and focus on a person named Jesus Christ, and His Father whom He opened access to for you and me. I’ve seen it and so have you…. The cranky, scolding, hyper evaluating judge, at the ready to call into question every movement and motive. I’ve been it, sadly.

In the verses below, the “speaking against” is considered equivalent of being judgemental, which is recognized by it’s harshness.

“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. Do not speak against one another, brothers and sisters. The one who speaks against a brother or sister, or judges his brother or sister, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.”
‭‭James‬ ‭4‬:‭10‬-‭11‬ ‭NASB2020‬‬

Self righteousness is the off ramp we take when we are tired of the road of humility, and begin to question it’s value and ultimate destination.


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