What's wrong with Religion?

Ruth Jacob

All people have a longing for something that is the ultimate reality, the ultimate satisfaction to fill their lives.  And they have a sense of wonder at the universe that they see.  And so religions sprang up, with people coming up with different ideas about why the world existed, and who was in charge of it, or in charge of their bit of it, and what this being was like.

For instance, Buddhism says, "If you do compassionate acts, live according to the eight-fold path and meditate properly, letting go of everything, and all desire, that holds you to this life, you will find your way to the ultimate - to Nirvana."

Islam says, "If you live according to the five pillars (main rules) of Islam and do good works, if you submit to Allah and pray five times a day, God will accept you to paradise."

And Christianity, as a world religion, so often gives a similar message.  "You can come to Jesus if you say a special prayer, or are splashed with 'holy water', or agonise over your sins.  God is waiting for you; if you come, you will be welcome, but you must find your own way; find your own faith within yourself; make your own repentance."

The Good News of Jesus is so very different from this.  All these religions are ways for people to try to make their way to God.  This is an admirable desire and in many senses shouldn't be discouraged.  But sadly it is a futile attempt, because we can never find our own way to God, and it is entirely unnecessary.  Because God himself has made a way, but it is not a way from us up to him, it is a way from him to us.  In Jesus we see God coming to us - not just to the respectable people, or the religious people or the earnestly moral people; nor to the rich and comfortable places, to a position where servants would wait on him.  But to the lowest places, the unrespectable, the immoral, to those who have reached an end of all hope or faith - yes, especially to them.  This is the true route of connection between God and people - from God right to where you are.

What's wrong with religion is not the desire for connection with God, but that it makes people feel that they have to do something to achieve or earn this.  God has already done everything necessary to enable a loving relationship between us and himself; and to save us from doing destructive things and from the utter annihilation which would happen to us and the entire universe if it were not for his gift of Jesus to us.  It might be hard to believe, when one way or another you have had to pay or sacrifice for everything you wanted, but it truly is a gift - entirely free: that he will raise us to endless life and fill us with his love.