Someone asked me today, why religion is our default mode? Why we always turn to it even when we know deep down we shouldn’t. I started thinking about it. My conclusion was that it comes down to control. Religion is something we DO. It doesn’t have to be your identity. It doesn’t require surrender. It requires adherence. Religion offers a list of things to do and a list of things to not do. If you don’t do the things you are not supposed to do and you do the things you are supposed to do, you are good. The idea is that our “goodness” can be affected or changed by what we do. If we can do enough good to counteract the bad then we can be good…or at least good enough.
Religion makes us feel better about ourselves by convincing us that our good intentions mean that we are by nature good people worthy of good things and ultimately the salvation of God. With religion one rarely considers the true condition of their heart. Religion isn’t really about the heart. It’s about behavior.
Now when I say “religion” I don’t mean faith. I don’t mean followers of Jesus. I mean “by the book” lifestyles that ignore what religion is supposed to be about. Religion is supposed to be about Jesus. It should draw us to Him, grow us in Him, strengthen our connection with Him. Instead it is often about us. How we live. What we do. How hard we try. Religion turns the American Dream into a plan of self-made salvation.
There is a reason the religious leaders were the ones opposed to Jesus. When you spend your life working to make yourself “good” it’s difficult to accept that you can’t. It’s hard to believe that God doesn’t want you to make yourself good. That’s His work. He doesn’t want us to be good enough, try hard enough, sacrifice enough of ourselves to out way our sin and tip the scales of justice in our favor. He wants to love us. He wants to give us life. He wants to save us from ourselves. The harder we try to be good on our own, the stronger we resist the grace He freely offers.
Grace isn’t a topping to go on the cheeseburger of our lives. It’s the whole meal. It’s the end all be all of cheeseburgers done up with the works and cooked to perfection….and now I’m hungry….this is why I should avoid food analogies….
Ultimately I think the reason we so readily turn to religion is that religion gives us things to do but does not demand our surrender. It’s just easier to follow rules and regulations than it is to give up control of our life.
My two cents.