By now, you’ve certainly seen this video by Jefferson Bethke. If not…where on earth have you been (it’s been viewed nearly 19 million times in just over a month)?
I know it’s hard to believe (insert sarcastic smirk) but this video has caused quite a bit of controversy. Whether you love it or hate it, it seems like everyone has an opinion about it. Here’s a response posted by a Catholic priest on YouTube:
When it comes to religion, I’m not a big fan…particularly because of the connotations that come with it. Far too ofter “religion” is associated with terms like self-righteousness & self-justification. I know, you can argue that all religion is not bad. However “religion”, in this sense, is man’s attempt to get to God. It’s about being accepted by God based on performance, not grace. And like it or not, this is the way most of our culture views religion. It reminds me of the way Tim Keller of Redeemer Church described “religion”: “a short-hand that is synonymous with legalism, hypocrisy, and self-justification, which has nothing to with the institution.”
According to Jefferson, this is the exact same context for the word “religion” in his poem:
“[This is] a poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion. In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At it’s core Jesus’ gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth.”
Religion, defined in this way, is clearly the antithesis to the Gospel.
The Gospel offers us eternal life, not religion. Jesus said himself, “I have come that you might have life to the full.” It’s through the Gospel that we enter into a relationship with Jesus, not through performing certain religious acts.
Jesus came to establish the church to be the continuation of His mission to reconcile all people back to God through His followers…not just another religion. In reading through the book of Acts, the church certainly didn’t look and act like any of the religions of the day. As a matter of fact, it was the religious leaders that set out to kill Jesus and then later silence the apostles.
It’s true that even the early church established certain rituals and practices, such as baptism and the celebration of the Eucharist. However, they were not intended to be a means to salvation but rather a symbol of salvation found only through a relationship with Jesus. The Lord’s supper and baptism are pictures of God coming to redeem mankind, not man attempting to gain favor with God through religious traditions.
It’s also imperative to know that Jefferson’s video is not designed to be anti-Church.
Bethke wrote on his Facebook page, “If you are using my video to bash ‘the church’ be careful. I was in no way intending to do that.” He went on to say, “The Church is Jesus’ bride so be careful how you speak of His wife. The church is His vehicle to reach a lost word. A hospital for sinners. Saying you love Jesus but hate the Church, is like a fiancé saying he loves his future bride, but hates her kids.”
So, what are your thoughts to these two videos? Is religion diametrically opposed to Jesus? Is there a difference between what Jesus set out to do through His church and what Christianity as a religion has become?