The Orlando nightclub shooting over the weekend that claimed at least 50 lives and injured over 50 more is a chilling reminder of a quote by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal.
“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
By numerous news accounts the gunman, Omar Matten, was heard shouting “Allah Akbar” while engaging law enforcement officers. Mateen also called 911 during the shooting to pledge allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Fox News reported.
Moderate Muslims have asserted the Islamic extremists, like Matten, had hijacked their religion. Actually, Islam has completely hijacked the true religion of the Bible.
Our word of the week is “religion.”
Religion has a bad name in many circles. Political pundit and comedian, Bill Maher once opined: “We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion…I think that religion stops people from thinking. I think it justifies crazies. I think that flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder.”
Maher went on to say he was including all religious people. He asserted that religion “is a crutch for weak-minded people.”
I can understand to some degree the unbeliever’s criticism of religion when you consider the Crusades of the 11th century. Holy wars through the years involving Protestants and Catholics. The sexual scandals among Catholic Priests involving young boys. The fake healers that prey upon the weak hoping for a miracle. And televangelists who beg for money for ministry while living lavish lifestyles. These all give religion a bad name.
However, while the actual word is not often used, there is a Biblical view of religion. The inspired writer, James, provides this perspective.
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (Jas 1:26-27).
The religion of which James speaks is founded by Jesus Christ. Its fundamentals are expressed in His famous Mountain Message in Matthew 5-7. It was founded on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus. It was preached by the apostles throughout the Roman world during the first century. And its principles and precepts have been preserved for 20 centuries in the book we call the Bible.
We learn a lot just from these two verses from James about Jesus’ religion.
(1) Jesus’ religion is pure. It is unmixed and uncontaminated by the self promoting religions of men. By definition it is ethically free from corruption, depravity and selfish desires. There is nothing vile, evil or heinous about the religion of Jesus Christ.
(2) Jesus’ religion restricts our baser desires. True religion is not the vehicle for out of control evil doers. Jesus calls for self-control. Self-discipline. And self-mastery of the works of the flesh. Even to the point of moderating the very words that we utter.
(3) Jesus’ religion issues itself in ministry toward our fellow-man. Pure religion cares. Feels compassion. And shows concern for the less fortunate. Real religion helps instead of hurts. Builds instead of demolishes. Saves instead of destroys. Jesus’ religion lifts the fallen. Serves the needy. And provides for the disenfranchised.
(4) Jesus’ religion is validated by a virtuous lifestyle. Its different from the world. Unspotted. Untainted. And unspoiled. Those who have been converted by Christ have been cleansed by His blood. And free from the impurity and putridity of sin and its attendant motivations. True Christians seek to live “holy, righteously and godly in this present world.”
Don’t be deceived by false religion. Or discouraged by corrupt religion. Or even dissuaded by the downfall of some Christians who fail to be faithful disciples.
Religion is not a bad thing when you believe, obey and fully embrace the religion of Jesus Christ.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman