One of the downsides of all religion is that religious people have their own sets of rules or definitions of what that religion is all about. Jesus’ disciples were first called “Christians” at Antioch, Acts 11:26 tells us (meaning that Jesus did not start a new religion called “Christianity”). When the Body of Christ, the family of God, the ecclesia, was retrofitted, artificially, into a new “religion” – a “church” – by Constantine and others, “Christianity” in the process became associated with, and largely defined by, various sets of rules about what it meant to be a “Christian.” Now we have almost 2000 years of religion, but are we as a result any closer to the savior – Jesus, the Christ – for whom this “religion” is, ostensibly, named?

Many shun Christianity because they find it “hypocritical” … too full of judgment and condemnation. They throw “Judge not” back at us, and quite often they are right. Why? Because Christians DO judge … on outward appearances, just exactly what Jesus told us not to do.

What factors into our judgments about our associations, where we will go to church, what college to attend, what radio station to listen to, etc.? Commonly in Christian circles it is things like hair length, clothing, music (beat, instruments, composer, performer, volume, length of hair / presence of body art & piercings on performers, reputation, response of listeners, etc.), facial hair (though beards are back “in” now, having been banned since the 60s because of the hippies who wore them then), where a speaker went to school, who he/she associates with, whether he is a “he” or she is a “she” (women are to keep silent), and so on.

There are, you see, litmus tests of orthodoxy. And if you fail a litmus test, you are out. Until there is nobody left “in” and the entrance requirements are changed to let enough people back “in” to keep the lights on. (And then where do YOU fit in, having already been branded as guilty of the sin of rebellion?)

The man (includes women) of God today must battle this religious spirit.

Think of it, either logically or directly from scripture: how is God “more present” with organ music, liturgy, professional clergy, ceremony, approved titles, etc.? Quite plainly, HE IS NOT. In fact, this religious spirit, this Pharisaism, is what put Jesus on the cross. Granted, He came to die for all who would receive Him, but the mechanisms, the tools, of his execution – His assassination as King – were the Pharisees and their religious spirit.

The important question is NOT where one goes to church, what music one listens to, how much time one spends reading his Bible daily, how many times he has read his Bible through, how much time he spends praying, how many years of perfect Sunday school attendance, what version of the Bible he reads, what preachers he listens to, where he went to school, whether he believes in pre-trib or post-trib or no rapture at all, whether he is Calvinist or Arminian, whether he listens to CCM or just the old hymns, whether reads the KJV or The Message, or any hundred more questions. No, the important thing – the ONLY thing – is this: what will you do with Jesus, and who is He to you?

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Mike Scruggs