“Give me that old time religion” says the late 19th century Gospel song because “it’s good enough for me.”
But is it, really?
What do you think of when you hear the word “religion”? Does it make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Does it conjure up feelings of love and acceptance and good times?
Nope. Me, neither.
“Religion”: I imagine frowny-faced octogenarians pointing their long bony fingers at me, shaking their heads disapprovingly. I hear the words, “Thou shalt not—or else” ringing in my ears (and it’s always in King James English, for cryin’ out loud).
“Religion” is no fun. You have to wear long skirts and ties (but not together, of course); you can’t go to movies, nor dance, nor sing to music. You can’t wear make-up, you have to shave and you must never, ever smile, especially in church.
“Sit still!” “Stop it!” “God’s gonna gitcher!” “No fun allowed!” “Put that down.”
Religion. Bah! Humbug!
These days religion appears to be a person’s attempt to please God on his own merits. “Hey, God! Look at me! I’m a good person! Look at what I do (or, rather, what I don’t do).”
Jesus came to abolish rule-keeping and empty external acts as ways to please God. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day burdened people with all sorts of extra laws telling them that they must keep them in order to please God—613 of them to be exact!
Listen to the scolding Jesus gave towards these religious people: “Woe to you…you hypocrites! …for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for people to see….”
Now, don’t get me wrong. When we turn to Jesus in faith and repentance we are all still held accountable to God’s Moral Law; in other words, we aren’t free to continue lying, stealing, murdering, etc., but there’s still great freedom in being a Christian. You can actually have fun! Blow a horn! Laugh! Dance!
The Apostle Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
I’ve changed the words to that Gospel song: “Forgive me that old time religion.”
That’s this pastor’s point of view. Is it yours or not? Read part 2 by clicking here.
Scripture references: (Matthew 23, Galatians 1)