I wonder what was going through the mind of Jefferson Bethke the night he posted the now wildly viral video Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus. Rumor has it that he made a bet with his roommates as to how many views it would have the next morning. The guesses ranged from 1000 to 6000, but little did he suspect that his spoken word poem would function as gasoline thrown on a fire that has been raging for thousands of years.
The next morning his video had over 100,000 views - and it has now blown past 15 million. Comments have been disabled, commentary has abounded, and Bethke has reached a near Rebecca Black Friday cultural status with cheers and jeers from both sides of the Christian aisle. (Oops, sorry for bringing up memories of Friday - won't happen again)
You might have guessed that I'm a fan – no "religion" can save anyone. This video is like the kid in class who says what everyone has been wanting to say but were too afraid to say it. I was that kid as well, but I praise God that someone infinitely cooler and more talented has taken his gifts and shouted out the message of grace that Jesus proclaimed 2000 years ago: I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it (Matthew 16:18).
Notice Jesus does not say "I will build a new religion," because He fulfilled the requirement of a sinless life and paid the penalty for our imperfection at the cross. When He says "church" he obviously doesn't mean big cathedrals or mega structures, He's talking about you and me!
"Church" here in the original language the Bible was written in is ecclesia - when meant "called out ones." In other words, church=people who have responded to the call of Jesus to give up our enslaving manmade ways of trying to earn salvation (read: religion) and receive eternal life by grace through faith.
That's why I hate religion, but love Jesus AND love the church…because the church is this grand collection of the tall and the small, the rich and the poor, and the happy and the grumpy who have bowed our knees and placed our trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Here's the way Bethke phrases it:
Because if grace is water, then the church should be an ocean.
It's not a museum for good people, it's a hospital for the broken.
Which means I don't have to hide my failure, I don't have to hide my sin,
Because it doesn't depend on me it depends on him.
Now you would think that lyrics like that would get an "amen" from every Christian on earth - right?
Wrong…I haven't seen so much controversy over a video since Rebecca Black's Friday Tebowing went viral.
I think critics of Bethke are interpreting his message as "I don't need the church because it's just me and Jesus" - and if that were true, I would wholeheartedly agree. But clearly "religion" and "church" are not the same thing. Sometimes religious people meet in churches, but that's like saying you're a car because you've been in a garage.
To many, the church is full of judgmental, hypocritical people that just want your money, which in a certain way could actually be seen as a "good" thing, because I can oftentimes be a judgmental, hypocritical person full of greed as well, so I feel right at home!
But the church is also a living, breathing body of believers who are united by the blood of our Savior and the hope of eternal life. We meet in buildings and houses to worship our Lord, hear His truth, break bread together and bless each other with our God-given spiritual gifts. None of those things I listed are done in an effort to earn favor with Jesus, they are a response of gratitude for the freedom from religious slavery that Jesus purchased at Calvary.
So if you love the video but hate going to church, you have missed the point. You can't hate religion but love Jesus and hate the church. You are a "called out one," so respond to the call and get involved with your brothers and sisters in a local church. Show your gratitude for what Christ has done, because we need you!
And if you are unclear about what the big deal is regarding the good news of the gospel, I have another video that is rocking the preening prideful socks off the religious legalists.
Check out Dare 2 Share's spoken word video Life in 6 Words!
Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action
Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus presents a great, but most likely temporary, opportunity to share the news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Since the video is viral, it will be on the minds and in the conversations of people, so pray for an opportunity to share your story of finding God through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause
Pray: Jesus, You have promised to build Your church that will be victorious even over the powers of hell. Thank You for calling me out of my dead life and into a living relationship with You and the church. Help me be a loving and forgiving part of my church and send people my way with whom I can share the gospel.
Read: 1 Corinthians 12:12-14. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Get: Check out Dare 2 Share's newest curriculum, Life in 6 Words: The GOSPEL Explored. It challenges with truths that have the power to transform lives, as well as enables viewers to more fully explain the gospel message to others.