Reject Religion, Embrace Jesus
Several years ago, both I and my marketing staff person came up with a provocative billboard idea for the church we were serving at the time.
The artwork was big, bold and quickly attracted attention. In huge letters, it read: Reject Religion. Embrace Jesus. The church logo and phone number were right below.
Some of the more traditionally-minded members of the church were appalled at the message and didn't hesitate to tell me so through angry emails, phone calls and even in person.
I told all of them the same thing: Jesus didn't come to start a religion, Jesus came to start a revolution.
In fact, the people Jesus railed against the most were the overly-religious people who hid behind traditions, rules, and regulations instead of engaging the world with the love of God.
And it was the religious people of his day that unjustly tried Jesus in a rigged trial, and had him executed.
In his poem To The Christians, the great British poet William Blake describes seeing a vision of a huge wheel of destruction winding its way through the countryside, destroying everything in its path.
Then he writes this:
And I asked a Watcher & a Holy-OneIts Name; he answer'd: 'It is the Wheel of Religion.'I wept & said: 'Is this the law of Jesus,This terrible devouring sword turning every way?'He answer'd: 'Jesus died because he stroveAgainst the current of this Wheel...Far too many people believe that the essence of Christianity is too-tightly bound to religious constructs---all of which are man-made and full of flaws.
And so they reject the Christian religion because, in its worst expressions, it often does seem like a "terrible devouring sword turning every way" stifling imagination, denying science, and often standing in opposition to the very words of Scripture.
But when we actually read the words of Jesus himself, we quickly discover that the essence of his teachings was centered around a very simple idea: Love God, Love Everybody.
This is what Jesus embodied, taught, preached and proclaimed. That when we show our love for God by loving others, we actually bring a bit of heaven here to earth. We become individual expressions of God's kingdom.
May you discover new ways to express your faith that are focused on Jesus and not on religion. May you show your love for God by loving who God loves. May you demonstrate the very essence of Christianity to a world that needs to see something different.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.