But first we need to get on the same page about what we mean when we talk about religion.
It’s not what you think!
Lots of people use the word religion to mean ‘people who hold spiritual beliefs’. You’ve heard this or maybe you’ve even said, “Are you religious?” When people say that what they’re really asking is are you spiritual?
But that’s not necessarily the best use of the word religion. The truth is, religion is nothing more than a set of rules. People who follow Jesus are not necessarily religious. But people who base all their decisions and actions on the 10 commandments are. People who adhere to the Bible are not necessarily religious. But people who justify their actions by saying, “because the Bible says so” are. People who want to attend church, get baptized and sing worship songs aren’t necessarily religious. But people who want to do those things in order to receive
Religion is in our blood, which isn’t necessarily bad
The love of religion shows up in every area of our lives. Our jobs don’t have ‘work hard and treat each other well’ philosophies. They have codes of conduct, dress codes, and sexual harassment policies. And rules govern every other area of our lives as well.
The sports we watch, the clubs we belong to, even our relationships have rules! Dating and marriage are two things people have a high level of commitment to. And don’t cheat is just one of the rules we adhere to (or try to adhere to) in order to protect ourselves.
For that reason, not all religion (systems of rules) is bad. In fact, at their core, rules are good. We set rules to protect people. And all of us need to be able to set boundaries in our relationships in order to protect ourselves from getting hurt.
What’s dangerous is when the rules take over, stop protecting us and start hurting us. And that’s what’s happened in a lot of churches all around the world. People are walking away not because they think God is bad, but because they are done with a painful set of rules that isn’t helping them grow.
So what should we do instead?
So if the religion (rules) in church have become bad, is it right to leave church? Yes and no. It’s admittedly bad for you and I to be held to a religious standard that is doing more damage than good in our lives. However, it’s at least as damaging to cut and run when the going gets tough.
The truth is, in the same way we need rules and boundaries to protect our lives, we need community to keep us alive. Community is what keeps us grounded and helps keep us from driving our lives into the gutter.
And since we are all heavily influenced by the people we spend time around, it’s important to understand that not just any old community will do. We need to plug into communities that have healthy sets of rules that are designed to protect everyone in the community. And that is one of the things church is supposed to be. And believe it or not, there are churches out there that are great communities where you can grow in knowledge and wisdom, meet God, and discover the freedom he intended you to live with. But I’m curious about you, check out the question of the day (below) and leave your two cents in the comments below.
What’s the best, most non-judgmental community you’ve ever belonged to?