I have come across a lot of anger towards religion, particularly the Church recently. Anger caused by the actions of people down the ages who claim to be acting in God’s name. To be fair, I can fully understand where these views come from, after all, religion has been used as the justification for much evil; holy wars, witch hunts, persecution, brainwashing, legal control, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, slavery, racism, greed, subjugation of women, terrorism and many other horrendous acts have been perpetuated by the Church or those acting on its behalf for centuries.
It’s shameful, disgusting and evil.
But it isn’t the fault of religion, or of Jesus. It’s the fault of human beings.
These acts were carried out by people whose motivation was not holy, no matter how warped their idea may be. Their motivations were power, money, control and hatred, all of which would have found another outlet had religion not been there. In many cases these acts have been carried out with no use of religion as a tool at all.
So, I can understand the anger towards religion, towards the Church, for the evil done in their name down the years. But it’s misdirected anger.
The church is not a bunch of power crazed people at the top, controlling the masses (although it has looked like that in points in history and in some parts of the world today). The church is simply the people of God. Each of us who follows Jesus.
Jesus is the founder, focus and direction of the Church. He is the leader and commander, and his command is simple,
“This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:17 NIV)
Love each other. Not abuse, persecute, control, lie to, hate or kill each other. Love each other. Simple as that.
If we love him, as he says, we will obey his commands. We will love each other. If we are in him and him in us we will bear fruit. We will love each other. If we love him then we will love the Father and do his will. We will love each other.
But, if we don’t obey his command, if we don’t love each other and act accordingly, then we don’t love him. Then he isn’t in us. Then we’re not in him. Then we don’t love the Father. And if this is the case, if we don’t love, but are moved by hatred and self interest, then he will say to us that he doesn’t know us. He will tell us to get away from him. We will be like branches which bear no fruit, are pruned, thrown away and burnt. We are not his Church.
Anyone who acts in their own interest, with their greed, lust for power, hatred and prejudice are not the Church. Even those who are “the Church” as people understand it are not his Church. He doesn’t know them. He shuts them out and cuts them off.
Whenever evil has been, or is, carried out in the name of the Church, then Jesus will say that they aren’t his. They aren’t the Church. They are liars and frauds who the rest of us need to call to account for their actions and refuse to follow.
His church is built on one main principle. Love each other. If we don’t do this, if we don’t live, breathe, eat and sleep this command, then we need to stop calling ourselves part of the Church and look at how we can change.
The church is not a lie, an instrument of evil or control. It’s the bride of Christ. It is steeped in love.
So should we be. Love each other.