What is RELIGION anyway?

When my son was little, he found a crayfish in the nearby Glen. He and my husband set up a fish tank abode, and Sebastian lived with us for many years. Not exactly the most cuddly pet, but the very low maintenance was a plus!!

One day, I looked in the tank and darn near fainted. There were two Sebastians! Exactly the same 4 inch size! How on earth????

A closer look revealed that one was merely the shell of the other. It seems Sebastian molted – he shed one complete perfectly shaped “skin.” What looked like two identical living crayfish was in reality one living crayfish and one imposter, a mere specter of the real thing.

Today, my friend Marja’s blogpost, reminded me of this episode of our family history. She wrote about religion, and her aversion to using the word “religious.” That is until she looked up the word in her Penguin English dictionary.
  • [Rilijon] n. belief in and worship of God or gods; specified system of theology ritual and morality based on this; outlook and way of life based on this…
Way of life → It’s not the system or the theory or the rituals that the key. It’s the way of life. Marja said, religion “is not a bad word if we allow it to jump off the page and become alive, if we choose it as a way of life.”  

James says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (Jms 1:27)

Marja noted the two principles here:
benevolent love for people in need
- a holy life

How often do we mis-use that word religion? People who consider themselves religious often miss its true meaning if their ways of life are just ritual and no relationship with the One they purport to worship. They go through the motions and, like the empty shed Sebastian, they look like the real thing but are missing the life inside. Similar to the Pharisees whom Jesus called “white washed tombs” who look righteous and pure on the outside, but inside are filled with dead men’s bones.

As a reaction, you, like me, may be quick to say “It’s not about religion. It’s about relationship.” The truth is – if it’s about relationship, we will demonstrate our relationship with our pure religion. James talks about worthless religion (1:26) and faith without works being dead (2:14-26).

Paul tells us that we were made as His masterpiece and are saved by faith alone, but that we were made to do good works that he prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph. 2:8-10).

The conclusion – it’s not what we do that saves us. But it’s what we do and how we do it that demonstrates to others the love of the One who saved us. Our religion a byproduct of our “way of life.” An empty shell of a religion cannot impart life into another. Only the one who has received the Lifegiver can.

Marja wonders “how difficult we have made ‘our’ religion sometimes…”
Me too.  
How about you? 


Jedidja said...

What a great example you use in this posting! And yes i've read Marja's posting.

Let us cherish the core/the heart of our religion: God's relationship with us through the crucified Jewish Christ.

Jennifer Dougan said...

Thanks for stopping by my site, and for your comments. How great that Lauren and AJ are excited about missions. Dance and construction... there are so many diverse ways now to serve God overseas! It's exciting. If they ever want to talk with me -- I lived in West Africa and France as a MK-- for a while, I would be happy to.

Thanks for your encouragement too about youth ministry and car conversations in my post "Car Conversations and Teen Talks." I agree... working with teens is wonderful, and long talks with them are great, where ever they happen.

Tell me more about your ministry here at Eternity Cafe. How did it get started? What is your passion for it?

Jennifer Dougan

Marja Meijers said...

Great post Susan, isn't it awesome when we can inspire one another this way?! I like the way you said: "it’s not what we do that saves us. But it’s what we do and how we do it that demonstrates to others the love of the One who saved us".
I truly hope your post will be picked up by one of your readers as well and so this will travel around the world. If the Bible says there is worthless religion, there must be worthy religion too.

Blessings, my friend!

Maude said...

Good message, Susan. I am passing it along to my daughters, whose children have a bearded dragon and a hermit crab, both of which shed their skins.

Anonymous said...

A way of life-worship. From religion to worship, a natural result of relationship, like breathing.

Love your page. Actually found you through Marja's page. ;)

Much love.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, I love this analogy of Sebastian and his emtpy shell. And I'm thankful you and Marja cleared up the religion vs. relationship thingie. Thanks!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I also read Marja's post and love the way you related to it. The crayfish story is an excellent analogy of the real thing versus the dead thing.

Karen Lange said...

I read Marja's post; it was a good one. And I wonder the same thing. Great food for thought!

quietspirit said...

I also like the story of Sebastian. It defines a specific type of person for me.
I went and read Marja's entry. She points out some very interesting ideas.
Thank you for your thoughts on this.