Some of you may be thinking, Wait a minute: you can’t hate religion and love Jesus. Jesus IS a religion. To which I’d answer yes and no. If you mean by religion, “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, purpose of the universe,” then yes and amen, Christianity is a religion. But by that definition, so is atheism. But if we mean by religion, “what one must do, or behave like, in order to gain right standing with God,” then real Christianity isn’t a religion.
I had been a Christian for about a year when I realized Jesus isn’t just one of many saviors. Following him is fundamentally different from practicing other world religions. There was something almost upside-down or antithetical to him.
All the other religions center on people’s righteousness — what we do and how good we are. Real Christianity centers on Jesus’ righteousness — what he has done and how good he is.
All the other religions essentially say, “This is what you have to do to be in right standing with God.” Jesus comes to earth and says, “This is what I’ve freely done for you to put you in right standing with God.”
Religion says do. Jesus says done.
Religion is man searching for God. Jesus is God searching for man.
Religion is pursuing God by our moral efforts. Jesus is God pursuing us despite our moral efforts.
Religious people kill for what they believe. Jesus’ followers die for what they believe.
That’s when it hit me: No wonder Christianity and Jesus’ message of salvation is called good news. It isn’t just good advice (religion); it’s good news (Jesus). It’s not declaring what we must do, but declaring what he has already done. It’s almost as if Jesus is the eternal paperboy delivering a newspaper declaring something that has already happened. The only question with Jesus is, will we follow him?
Watch Jefferson this Tuesday on LIFE TODAY. Reprinted by permission. Jesus>Religion: Why He Is so Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough by Jefferson Bethke. Copyright ©2013 by Jefferson Bethke. Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.