I’ve seen first hand what the effects of religion are. I’ve seen people who are forced to follow strict guidelines or risk being shunned by their community. I’ve watched people mutilate their body in hopes of paying some kind of penance. People do a lot of unnecessary things to themselves and to others all in the name of religion. It’s very sad to see.
Religion often seeks to control others. It uses rules and regulations to force people into doing things in order to earn their way into the afterlife. By keeping people guessing about their assurance of their salvation, they can manipulate them into doing whatever they ask. People comply and the follow in the name of this or in the name of that, but really it’s in the name of whoever is trying to control them by fear.
Jesus did not come to bring fear or to control you. It’s just the opposite. II Timothy 1:7 says that God has given us a spirit of power, love and a sound mind. He gives us a spirit of power, love and a sound mind, we won’t be controlled or manipulated by religions that seek to do that. Even in Christianity there are those who seek to manipulate and control through fear.
In Galatians 5:1, it says that it was for freedom that Christ set us free. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could be bound by religion and the rules that come along with it. He came to bring freedom from religion. He knew that the only way to have a true follower is if it were by choice. He wants to have a relationship, not a dictatorship.
Another thing that religion does is to condemn people. Condemnation uses shame and judgement to make someone feel bad. By using condemnation, religion seeks to elevate itself by tearing down those who follow it. Those who are under condemnation can never be good enough or do enough. They can never be sure of their salvation, but they keep trying in hopes of making it when they die.
Jesus said in John 3:17 that He did not come to condemn the world, but that through Him, the world might be saved. Where religion brings condemnation, Christ brings salvation. His message was not Hell, fire and brimstone. It was love, compassion and forgiveness. He desires to spend eternity with His creation and made a way for that to happen by paying the high cost of giving His life for you.
Religion also seeks to make you conform. It wants to make you conform into its image, not God’s. It doesn’t want you to be who God made you to be, it wants you to be who they think you should be. When you lose who you are, you are more likely to blindly follow their rules. As mentioned before, Jesus wants you to be free.
He wants to take who you are, all of your successes, failures, scars and shortcomings to use them for His purpose. When you become His follower, he doesn’t make you conform. Instead He makes you transform! Romans 12:2 says that we should not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the entire renewal of your mind. This transformation starts with renewal. You get a fresh start spiritually. Jesus wants to give you a renewed hope and future.
I know what it’s like to be religious and to try to impose religion on others. Jesus didn’t do it that way and neither should we. Where religion seeks to control, condemn and conform you, Christ wants to set you free, forgive you and renew you. In fact, Christianity is the opposite of religion. It is not a set of rules and regulations as some would have you believe. It’s about having a relationship with a God that loves you more than you can comprehend. It’s about living for the One who died for you. While there are those who seek to make Christianity act like religion, that was not Jesus’ intent. He came to bring life and peace. There is freedom in Jesus.