Religion - The Controversy
Religion seems to be something that stirs controversy because it attempts to define God. Some groups freely choose to sacrifice their lives in the name of their religion, while others vehemently fight to exclude religion from their government, schools, and society.
Religion - The Burden
What a strange journey the practice of religion offers mankind. In every culture, whether primitive or civilized, there are “god-seekers.” Imperfect man strives to explain his purpose and his world through a pursuit of some higher power.
At some point, idols and images serve to represent that god. For example, the Greeks feared angering any of their gods, even those they hadn’t yet discovered. “For as I [Paul] walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD...” (Acts 17:23). While the Athenians were very religious, they were intellectual pagans with primordial deities comprised of evil spirits and demons (Chaos, god of nothingness from which all else sprang; Erebus, god of darkness and shadow; Hades, god of the underworld and wealth).
Man has created every religion as a method to redeem himself and to reach God through regulations, rules, or works. All religions center upon man’s own efforts to make things right with God. Through self-effort (works) people try to earn their way into heaven (salvation) or some eternal reward. “God is what man finds that is divine in himself. God is the best way man can behave in the ordinary occasions of life, and the farthest point to which man can stretch himself” (Max Lerner, American Politician/Journalist 1909-1992).
Ultimately, we all fall short of perfection (Romans 3:23). This leaves us with a feeling of failure, chronic guilt, apathy, and eternal separation from God. By simply practicing religion, any chance of a personal relationship with God becomes a burden.
Religion - The Answer
Is God to be found in the true meaning of religion? We can be assured that God longs for relationships not rituals, humility not hierarchy, and intimacy not insecurity. Religion implies fulfillment of conditions prior to God’s acceptance. A fulfilling relationship comes through accepting God’s unconditional grace and mercy.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace that you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4–5).