Recently, I came across a list of the most deadly. The deadliest soldier was a Soviet Union sniper. The deadliest disease was smallpox. The deadliest animal was the mosquito and the deadliest natural disaster was the 1931 flood of China. But here is what really caught my attention: The Deadliest Idea. Can you guess what was listed as the deadliest idea or concept? The answer: Religion.
History reveals that it is not just one religion. Hindu, Islam, Christianity, Judaism…all of the major religions are responsible for a great deal of deaths. In the Old Testament, the deaths caused by Judaism might not be considered because the causes of the war were either protection or for land, the promised land. This is different simply because the deaths caused by other religions were not for land or protection but to destroy unbelievers. The purpose was to kill those who did not believe in that religion. This was not the issue in the Old Testament wars, but it was certainly the issue in the Inquisition, the Ottoman wars, and the Crusades. Yet, most of the world’s religions point toward peace. How can something intended for such good be used for absolute evil?
We might think this question applies primarily to religion, but isn’t this a universal question? Was music first invented to promote the violence, debauchery, and immorality as it does so pervasively in our culture today? Of course not. Music, schools, the internet, television, facebook, and yes religion have all been hijacked to some degree by unexpected evil. We shouldn’t really be surprised considering God’s purpose for the creation of man was to love man and be loved by Him. This purpose was corrupted with the very first man and woman in the Garden of Eden. Let’s face it. The Devil is in the business of taking what God intended for good and working evil within.
And the institution of the Christian church is not exempt from the ancient serpent. He continues to slither into God’s garden corrupting and deceiving.
Though shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain-3rd in the list of God’s Ten Commandments. This might be the most broken commandment within Christianity. It is not a command against profanity. It is a command against taking the name of Christ while acting like the devil. It is to call ourselves Christians while acting in ways that do not reflect the glory of Christ and the teachings of Christ. Perhaps we are not killing people physically as in the Crusades or the Inquisition, but we are doing harm still. This is the result of impure religion. Pure religion holds fast to the teaching of that religion. Impure religion takes on the name of the religion and discards the teaching.
The purpose of the Christian religion, the beliefs and the rituals, is to draw us nearer to Christ that we might become more like Christ. The end goal of Christianity is not salvation. It is true that when we put our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior that our name is written in Heaven’s book. It is true that salvation makes eternal life in Heaven ours to have when this life ends. But this is not the goal of Christianity. Oh, I know…I just messed some people up! The purpose of Christianity is to be saved that we have the Spirit of God; to be healed that we have the heart of Christ; to be transformed that we do what Jesus did. He resisted temptation. He taught the truth. He loved His neighbor. I got you there, didn’t I? You know there is something to that idea of loving our neighbor. When Jesus taught us how to be a good neighbor, it was someone who saw someone in trouble and helped them. It didn’t matter that the race of the person who needed help was violently prejudice against the good neighbor. The good neighbor saw someone in need and did not cross to the other side of the road. He stopped and he helped. Jesus compared the good neighbor to the religious leaders of the time who knew the Scripture forward and backward and never missed church, but when seeing someone in need, they crossed over to the other side. Going through the motions of religion means nothing if we don’t do what Jesus did.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
If my religion is pure, then my prayer time, devotion reading time, studying Scripture time, going to church-time will prepare me more to do the works of Christ. If you are wondering if you are supposed to go down to the local cemetery and start raising people from the dead, please don’t leave until you have finished reading :) All that Christ did from His miracles to His death to His resurrection was to reconcile people back to Himself. We are supposed to do those things that help people see God, believe in Him, and follow Him. When He came across someone who needed help, He helped them in the name and to the glory of God. Our religious activity should prepare us and inspire us to do the same. Not everyone has the same gifts. We can’t all do the works of Christ in the same way. Some preach. Some encourage. Some pray. Some are exceedingly generous. Some comfort. Some lead. We are not gifted the same so we don’t all do the works of Jesus in the same way, but we all called to do the works of Christ in the unique ways He has equipped us by the Holy Spirit. Every believer will help others in ways that lead them back to Jesus.
The prophet Amos teaches us that God despises religious activity like going to church and singing worship songs if these are not also accompanied by the works leading people back to Jesus.
I say let’s purify our religion. Let’s be more faithful to church. Let’s worship with all of our heart. Let’s pray with diligence, but let’s also help those who need help. Let’s not cross over to the other side. When we see those beaten and left for dead, whether spiritually or physically, let us do the acts of Christ that He might be glorified and people be reconciled to Him.