Good Religion or Bad Religion! 11-5-2017

What is the difference between good religion and bad religion.
That is the theme with which we are dealing today.
It should be noted that the primary difference between good
religion and bad does not lie in the realm of theological ideas. Jesus did
not denounce the scribes and Pharisees for what might be called
“doctrinal heresy”. In fact he almost seemed to approve of them at that
point. He told his disciples to “do everything and observe everything
they tell you”. But then he added, “Do not follow their example.” In
other words he approved of their religious theory but disapproved of
their religious practice. He did not like what their religion had done to
their character.
Jesus knew that in matters of religion it is possible to be doctrinally
correct and, at the same time, to be morally and ethically corrupt.
These people had so misused their religion as to make themselves
arrogant snobs. They were firmly convinced that they were just a little
bit better than the average run of people. And that, my friends, is one
sure sign of a religion gone bad.
Good religion always engenders humility. Bad religion engenders
arrogance. Whenever you and I begin to think that we are a little bit
better than some other person or some other group, we can mark it down
at that very point, our religion has started to go bad.
It works something like this: Since I am right and you are wrong,
and since I am better than you are, then God must surely be on my side
against you. This means that I have a divinely mandated responsibility
to get you straightened out. This gives me the right to impose my will
upon you. If I cannot change your mind then I must control your actions
so that you cannot corrupt the rest of society.
This is the attitude that brought about the crucifixion of Christ.
This is the attitude that created and sustained the institution of slavery.
This is the attitude that inspired and energized the Nazi regime in
Germany. This is the attitude that underlies all racial discrimination and
religious persecution. There is no more damnable attitude on the face of
the earth than the tragic notion that Gods is on my side against you.
Let me illustrate the attitude by citing two events of recent history
and a comment that was made concerning them. Some of us remember
the tragedy when a Korean passenger plane was shot down by a Soviet
jet fighter, killing two hundred sixty-nine people. The other event was
less publicized. It happened a few months later in that same region.
There was an accidental explosion on a Soviet military base that killed
approximately three hundred of their military personnel. A short time
later a nationally known television evangelist (Jerry Falwall) reminded
his listeners of both events and then gave his interpretation of them. He
pointed out that the second tragedy is shrouded in mystery. And no one
knows for sure what happened. But he insisted that he knew. His exact
words were these: “God struck the match.” In other words, God caused
the explosion. He was punishing them for what they had done to us.
The evangelist was saying that same old thing – God is on our side
against them. And I could not disagree more.
I am saying, my friends, that God is not on our side against
anybody. Our role in this world is not to conquer and control. It is to
save. Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be the one who serves
the rest.” That is good religion. And if we ever forget it, our religion
has started to go bad.
I close by quoting Mother Teresa. More than any person, she knew
what good religion is. She says: “Each person’s mission is a mission of
love. Begin in the place where you are, with the people closest to you.
Make your homes centers of compassion and forgive endlessly. Let no
one ever come to you without coming away better and happier…
“At the hour of death when we come face-to-face with God, we are
going to be judged on love; not how much we have done, but how much
love we put into doing”
Now that’s good religion!


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