My friend, Nichole, emailed me a video that has been burning up the Internet and social networks that I, somehow, hadn't seen yet. It's by a kid named Jefferson Bethke and the title is "Why I hate religion, but love Jesus".
It's pretty profound.
When he says:
"Because if grace is water, then the church should be an ocean. It’s not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken. Which means I don’t have to hide my failure, I don’t have to hide my sin. Because it doesn’t depend on me it depends on him."
I nodded in agreement.
When he says:
"Now back to the point, one thing is vital to mention. How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrum’s. See one’s the work of God, but one’s a man made invention. See one is the cure, but the other’s the infection."
I nodded again, though mostly out of understanding.
The poem is a testament of his journey to find Jesus's grace, an acknowledgement of his sin, a thank offering to Jesus for finding him and loving him despite the fact that he is (as we all are) undeserving.
And I understand the reason he hates religion, the man-made invention. Church is supposed to be a hospital for the broken, a place we all go to learn and thank God and feel and forgive and heal and learn more and do for others and raise our families so they can learn and thank God and feel...etc. And many churches are just that.
But many churches aren't. Many can be petty and judgemental. Sometimes church people hide themselves behind their suits and dresses and put off an air that they are fine, sinless maybe even, that others are in way worse shape than they are...many are blind. Many churches are too tied up in routines and tradition and rules (which aren't all bad) to see that there's a kid sitting in the pew who's pretending to be neat and tidy all the while he's addicted to porn (like Jefferson). How is he supposed to acknowledge his sin in a church like that, where everyone is blind? If he's raised in a blind church, that's what he'll grow up to be...blind.
So I get it.
But instead of admonishing "church" and "religion" as a whole, though both are surely fallible (because they are man made); maybe he just needs to go shopping. Shop for a church that fits, where the people are real and the praise is genuine and the message is challenging and the work they do has value to the community and to the world.
They exist. I go to one. And while it's far from perfect, it's my church home. This place and its people have become my church family.
You're never going to get along with everyone or agree with everything your family does. But they are your family. You love them just like Jesus loves you - faults and all. And that's how you love your church, when you find the right one.
Loving and believing in Jesus and living by his teachings is fundamental. It's the first and most important step of faith. But attending church also has value. It keeps you in touch, keeps you in line, keeps your mind fertile and growing, keeps your spirit filled and your heart and mind open. Just like a good friend, like Nichole, or your family should.
So, I'm with you Jefferson. I get what you're saying. I've been there. I wish you well on your journey, as it will surely be exciting and relevant.
Now it's time to go shopping.