“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians”
“I’m a Christ-follower, but I oppose organized religion.”
“I’m spiritual. I think Jesus was a great teacher, but the church needs to change.”
There are almost endless variants of this core message.. “I like Jesus. I hate Religion.”
The problem is that people who make this statement don’t really believe either point. It’s a logical slight of hand, but one in which the illusionists only fool themselves.
Let me explain.
“I love Jesus”….
Slight of hand #1: You switched “Jesuses” on us.
To say that you love Jesus means that you have to understand who Jesus actually claimed to be, His teachings, and His stated purpose.
Jesus claimed to be God. Not a teacher, not a prophet, not a good moral example. GOD. The actual creator of the universe. You can’t run around claiming to be God and then just be seen as a “good teacher” or “moral example”. If Jesus isn’t who He said He was, He was at best a charlatan, and at worst a psychopath.
Jesus also made incredibly unique truth claims which were patently offensive (and blasphemous) in the first century, and remain patently offensive (and “intolerant”) in today’s post-modern culture. Jesus said that He was God incarnate, the very creator of the universe entering into creation for a single purpose: To provide the exclusive way by which men could escape the just punishment for their sin and receive eternal life. The flip side of this truth claim is that anyone who did not believe this would be condemned.
One God. One name, alone, by which man may be saved.
Those are the truth claims of Jesus. To say that you love, respect, or follow Jesus while denying his claims of both deity and exclusivity is to love, respect, or follow a different Jesus. In short, “coexist Jesus” doesn’t exist. He’s a creation of your imagination.
You’ve swapped out the real Jesus with one of your own making. THAT is the Jesus you like.
“I’m Spiritual”, “I hate religion”
Slight of hand #2: You swapped religions on us.
The problem is that this generic “spiritualism” is a subjective, personalized experience. Jesus didn’t come for that reason, He didn’t minister that way, and He didn’t establish His work on earth in this manner.
Jesus spoke, performed miracles, and made his truth claims publicly and objectively. He established the meeting together of His followers for teaching, edification, and public proclamation. To meet together publicly and jointly confess our faith in a publicly, objectively crucified savior guards against creating and worshipping our “own personal Jesus.”
By holding to the objective, public statements of Jesus’ earthly ministry, by publicly receiving the objective elements of the Lord’s Supper, and by publicly and objectively being washed in baptism, we ultimately worship the historic, public, objective Jesus rather than a private, subjective “Jesus” of our own creation.
What this leads to, without fail, is not only replacing the real Jesus with one of your own creation, but replacing the public, objective gospel of Jesus ministry with your own, alternative gospel.
Let’s work through that.
So, you dig Jesus. You think he had some great messages about loving the underdog, the poor, the disenfranchised. You think he was a great moral teacher. But the whole “God” thing? The whole “only way” thing? Not so much. So what are you left with? “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So you replace Jesus stated purpose of coming to save people who do not, who cannot, love their neighbor as themselves with the very thing He said is impossible. Huh?
In closing, here’s the rub. Jesus taught and the church confesses that we have ALL failed and fallen short of this call to Love God with all our hearts and Love our neighbor as ourselves. Therefore, we believe and confess that it is only by grace through faith in Christ that we are forgiven. That’s the christian faith. That’s the christian “church”, that’s our “religion”.
This “spiritualism”? Your “own path”? You’ve simply replaced the religion of Jesus with one of your own making. And it ends up where ALL non-Christian religions end up; A religion of works and law rather than Jesus religion, a religion of grace.
So to be blunt, to be offensive, to be “intolerant”.. You either love the biblical Jesus and his biblical religion, or you love the Jesus and religion you’ve replaced them with. To balk at either Jesus or His religion is to engage in a slight of hand. The problem here is that you aren’t fooling anyone but yourself.
While I can only touch on this important topic in the short-form media of a blog, here are two of the most viewed videos of the “Love Jesus, Hate Religion” argument and an absolutely fantastic response.