‘Jesus,’ yes; ‘religion,’ no
The Rev. Paul Gray, senior pastor, Heartland Community Church, 619 Vt.:
God cares immensely about every human being on the earth. He loves us all so much that he gave his only son, Jesus Christ, to come to earth and make it possible for us to be right with God and spend eternity with him (John 3:16). However, God doesn’t care at all about “religion.”
Since the beginning of time, “religion” has been mankind’s attempt to gain a right standing with God by doing certain things and not doing other things. Each “religion” has come up with its own standards. However, no one is ever quite sure if he or she has done enough — or done something so bad that God would reject them. “Religion” is joyless, demanding, stuffy, burdensome and impossible to please.
However, accepting Jesus Christ as God’s substitutionary requirement for us to get right with him (involving no “work” on our part, only faith), pleases God very much. He cares about that choice infinitely!
When one accepts Christ and enters eternity — starting here on earth and continuing forever, the holy spirit of Christ then offers supernatural power to that person. That power is available to change our character and help us be more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kinder, gentler, faithful and have our lives more and more under control.
There are many great expressions of Christian community, and God wants us to be involved in one — as long as that community embraces his standard that Jesus is the (only) way, the (absolute) truth and (eternal) life, and that no one comes to the Father (gets “right” with God) except through Jesus (John 14:6). Jesus, yes! Religion, no!
— Send e-mail to Paul Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Faith isn’t one-size-fits-all
Judy Roitman, guiding teacher, Kansas Zen Center, 1423 N.Y.:
I don’t know if anyone believes God doesn’t want people to switch religions. But plenty of people believe that God wants everyone to switch to their religion, to their particular precise version, with no add-ons or modifications.
Some folks will even kill others to make this point — it’s happened so many times that the entire space of the Lawrence Journal-World is too small to list all such atrocities. If they don’t kill, they might shun. And if they don’t shun, they still might not want to hear about it. It takes a large heart and a wide mind to accept that someone isn’t fulfilled by your religion.
Religion often functions as a glue that creates communities and helps hold families together. So changing or adding religious practices can have serious family and social consequences. But religion is also personal, and sometimes people have to modify, add on to or even completely change their religious practices in order to keep their spiritual integrity. That’s why Buddhism talks about 84,000 expedient means. This is a recognition that no one way fits everyone. Only you know if your religious practice fits you.
And let’s be clear: “fits” doesn’t mean “feels good.” If your religious practice forces you to look at the hard questions, opens your heart to the suffering of others and grounds you in something far deeper than your so-called self, then stick with it. If it doesn’t, then do whatever it takes to find something that does. I hope the people around you will understand, will honor your integrity and will even find happiness in your finding a spiritual home.
— Send e-mail to Judy Roitman at email@example.com.