Religion was not God’s original intention. Humanity was created as image bearers of God to be in intimate relationship with the divine. It was only after Adam and Eve were deceived by Satan to think God was distant did humanity try to bridge the perceived gap with God through religion. In the second installment of the End of Religion series, Bruxy explores how religion is the primary context in which sin flourishes.
We often don’t think of our relationship with God as intimate and affectionate, but in reality He not only loves us and gave His life for us, He also really likes us and enjoys spending time with us. We are His image bearers created in His likeness. From the moment Adam and Eve were deceived into thinking of God as distant, humans have been trying to bridge the perceived gap between us and God through religion. Religion can be defined as any system of belief, behavior, and belonging to achieve access to the ultimate. Religion is the primary context in which sin flourishes.
One of the first stories in scripture in which we see the damaging effects of religion is with Cain and Abel. Eve had been told in Genesis 3 that her seed would eventually crush the serpent that had deceived her. As the first born Eve probably thought her son Cain would fulfill that prophecy and it’s likely a story Cain was brought up living in to. This context would make sense of the contrast in offerings given to God in Genesis 4 and God’s response. God rejects Cain offering of fruit from the land which in turn devastates him, but accepts Abel’s offering of fat portions from firstborn of his flock. It’s important to note that God never asked for an offering. This idea for an offering arose in the brothers out of a sense of distance and lack of intimacy with God.
It’s interesting to note that the offering Cain gave to God is the same word used in Genesis 3 denoting the fruit that Eve took and ate from the tree. Cain was essentially trying to make things right with God by giving back the fruit they have taken and ate. On the other hand Abel’s offering is simple gratitude in what God had done for them. This is evident in God’s response to Cain when he basically tells him He’s not looking for a better sacrifice, He just wants Cain to live well, do right and he will be accepted. God didn’t originate the idea of sacrifice for forgiveness. Over and over again in scripture God accommodates His ideal will to deal with humans where they are actually at in order to move them forward. We see this idea of accommodation repeated with Samuel and Israel rejecting God in favor of a human king, as well as with David wanting to build God a temple instead of God staying in His tabernacle tent.
God tells His people that He has no pleasure in their sacrifices because their hearts are far from Him. We see this repeated in Micah 6:8 where we learn what God actually requires of His people, not sacrifice but to “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Jesus reinforces God’s ideal in Matthew 9:13 when He says “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” In light of God’s grace on our lives the only acceptable response is gratitude. Religion is something God has accommodated for a season, but He says enough is enough in the person of Jesus. We can now live for celebration. We’re off the hook for trying to make things right and can just say thank you to God for the grace He’s had on our life.
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