On Wednesday, last week, I went to a funeral service of one of my grandfathers and during the service, I was surprised by what I saw. It is bad to talk of a funeral here, our culture demands so, but the things done in the funeral service opened my eyes about ‘Religion!’
First, the service was held inside the church building. For reason best known to them, certain denominations do not permit a dead body to be taken to the church. Again, the funeral was colorfully presided over by high ranking religious priests, a bishop who led a team of three other pastors.
What astonished me during the funeral was what the Bishop did to the coffin. The coffin, which was placed at the in front of the church, had some candles burning on it, perhaps signifying something on us being the ‘Light to the world,’ I guess! The Bishop poured an oil first to all of us who had attended the funeral and thereafter poured the oil to the coffin revolving around it for more than ten times. Some incense giving out some smoke was also burnt around the coffin!
As if that was not enough, six people who were fellow brethren of the deceased stood three on each side of the coffin throughout the service. To make them rest, they exchanged with fellow colleagues from time to time with others seated during the service that took more than four hours.
Do I sound as if I do not respect the funeral service, no I do! What worried me all this time was why this was to be done, and already the man had died. Too many religious activities as if this would change his destiny if he died a sinner.
The above story exists only for one purpose. Not to condemn the funeral ceremony, after all, it is fully accepted by members of the denomination, but it exists to point out this fact; Religion can blind many of us hence making us fail to experience that our relationship with God is what matters, and also the Supremacy of Christ.
The truth of the matter is that if we live in immorality and deep in sin, religion will never rescue us! I know how much our grandparents feel good if even at old age we stick to our ‘church’ or our denomination. I know how many of my elder colleagues in church faced the wrath of the society for changing the ‘church’ we fellowship at home!
I remember the advice of one woman who told me that after getting more education, I will be tempted to change ‘my church’ which she termed as evil! Oh, for sure, religion or even denomination is a veil that is blinding many to see the fullness of Christ and his love for us!
Just as Paul says, it is only in Christ Jesus where the veil from the devil, be it of religion, is removed!
It is sad that many people are too religious but less of Christ. We are zealous of our denominations and church beliefs but not zealous in loving Jesus Christ. Most of us have finished most (if not all) religious ceremonies that our denominations stand for! And we think we are safe?
Others have gone to the extent of changing their lifestyles and even mode of dressing to respect their religious beliefs. Others have been restricted to specific colors and others even to specific songs, type of food among many other things.
As I was looking for meaning of religion, I was startled by this:
The English word “religion” is etymologically derived from the Latin word religo, meaning to “bind up.” Religion binds people up in rules and regulations or in ritualistic patterns of devotion.
Some of the passages in the Bible that proves that fact that God hates religion, and all of its procedures and programs; rituals and regulations include;
“I have had enough of burnt offerings…Bring your worthless offerings no longer…I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts; they have become a burden to Me… So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you… I will not listen…” (Isaiah 1:10-15)
“I hate, I reject your festivals; nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies…take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.” (Amos 5:21-24)
Jesus in Matthew 23 was on the necks of the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and their dependent upon the religious system of works to appease God, weighed them heavily to people and yet themselves would not be able to follow them.
A commentary on verse 15 of Matthew 23 says that “The Pharisees’ converts were attracted to religion, not to God.” Too sad for sure, doing things to appease religious leaders and not to appease God! Jesus also criticizes religious leaders in Luke 11:37-54.
In conclusion, it is good for us to note that “Religion is man searching for God. Christianity is God searching for man.” Jesus dying for us on the cross made the latter possible! It is impossible for us to work our way into a relationship with God. We must be born into it. The second birth. The spiritual birth.
Religion is not the answer. Religion is the problem. Let us always remember that true Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. In fact, religion is the biggest roadblock to seeking a relationship with God. Right relationship with God cannot be found through religion, this can only be found in Jesus Christ!
We do not need Religion, We need Jesus!
By: KENNETH IRUNGU
iServe Africa Apprentice