- Religion focuses on what I can do for God.
- Relationship focuses on what God has done for us.
When we are entrenched in "religion" (whether that religion is Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, or something else) we tend to judge how we're doing by comparing ourselves to those around us. Is our good outweighing our bad? Are we measuring up? How much do we need to do to repay our cosmic debt? This way of thinking lends itself to either feeling arrogant or discouraged.
People all over the world realize that we are broken. That we have a debt to pay. And many spend much of their lives trying to repay that debt, trying to appease what gods may be.
Once I heard Jack Dorsey (founder of Twitter) being interviewed. He was asked, "You obviously care a lot about social crises in the world and have contributed a lot through your philanthropy efforts. What is it that motivates you to do so much good in the world, both personally and through your organization?" His reply was so revealing. He said, "I feel like each of us have a debt to repay society. We come into the world and we take from it and make mistakes and sometimes do harm. I feel an obligation to try to repay my debt."
While Andy was in East Asia, he spent some time with people in a remote village that had never heard the story of Jesus or even His name. This people group has a religious tradition that multiple times a year they will tie a water buffalo to a pole, beat it, and kill it to appease the "spirits" for the wrong-doings in their village. Somehow these people, with virtually no connection to the outside world, have the understanding that their sins must be atoned for. They are desperately trying to DO something to be in right standing with God.
Andy's team was able to share the story of Jesus (from Creation to Christ) with these people. After listening to this amazing story that he had never heard, one man decided that he believed and wanted to follow Christ. He said, "This is such good news! I must go tell my family!"
The next day as Andy's team was reading the Bible with this new believer, he looked up and said with light in his eyes, "So this means that I don't have to sacrifice the water buffalo anymore!" That's right! You got it! Your efforts to atone for your own sins will never be good enough, but it's okay because another way has been provided. It is truly the best news in the world!
Whether it's through philanthropy efforts or social justice or non-profit giving or attending Mass or water buffalo sacrificing, all of Creation tends to lean towards religious, man-made attempts to work our way out of debt. The GOOD NEWS is that the debt has been paid by Jesus and relationship can be reestablished through Him!
You can listen to Andy's whole sermon here.
Take 4 minutes to listen to Thomas' story and how he moved from Religion to Relationship. It may be the best 4 minutes of your day!