Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Religion: What's It All About?

I read an interesting definition of religion that I believe captures the true sense of the word. In a book I've been reading the author said that religion was whatever we value as most important.

I know that for most people they see religion as a set of things we do to worship a supreme being or idea, or a system of cultural beliefs and practices. But, it leaves out an important emotional element. That element is devotion. And devotion is the central element that makes religion … well … religion.

For instance, cultural practices may not be a person's religion. In fact, many cultures have subcultures that reject the mainstream in all practicality. However, people who are devoted in following a cultural practice do so for reasons beyond the culture itself. They believe in pleasing their parents, fitting in, that it is true, or believe that it defines their identity. In any case, their religion is their belief that they need to maintain their cultural practices. That it is most important to do so for whatever reasons.

For others, their religion can be their self-reliance. They can't depend on any god for their well-being. Rather it is up to themselves. Their abilities are what's important in this life. Some folks believe that popularity as the ultimate concern. After all, you can't get anywhere in life if you are unpopular or nobody likes you. Still others may view experiences as most important. Our purpose for being alive is to experience all that life has to offer.

What is real?

But few understand that whatever they choose to devote themselves to they are making a statement about reality. They are saying by their choice of religion that what they believe is true and it has ultimate value. And fewer still consciously consider whether they've chosen wisely.

In John 6, Jesus challenged his disciples. And even though Jesus performed convincing proofs, many disciples left him. They couldn't see that Jesus was the ultimate concern. They couldn't conceive that Jesus knew what should be of ultimate concern for us. They couldn't see how Jesus was the ultimate solution.
"Maybe, perhaps, Jesus was part of the solution, or a means to an end. But the bottom-line issue of life? Nah."
But Peter understood something. When we look at all the religious options out there, which one truly promises eternal life? Which one really gives us the assurance that Jesus preaches about? Which one has the ring of truth, and demonstrated plausibility that the Gospel has? None really. I mean, "to whom shall we go?"

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