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The Evil of Religion

• Greg Boyd

Religion or relationship? We need to be careful about which term best describes how we engage our faith. Through his actions and teaching, Jesus shows us clear distinctions between viewing Kingdom life as a religion or as a personal relationship.

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Today’s message focused on Christianity as a relationship with God rather than
strict adherence to religious rules. In today’s text, the Pharisees were indignant
because Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath, which is supposed to be a day
of rest. In the tradition of the Pharisees there were many rules and regulations on
what can and cannot be done on the day of rest. This even included how far one
could walk and how to do food preparation for that day. So, given their rules,
Jesus was in violation since he was “working” by healing this woman on the

As we know from Mark 2:27, Jesus taught that the Sabbath was made for
people, not people for the Sabbath. In this situation we see just what Jesus
meant by that. The Sabbath was intended to support our relationship with God,
not distract or even interfere with it. In this case, this woman encountered God
mightily on this particular Sabbath!

Greg spent most of the message describing how religion is all form but doesn’t
necessarily engage the heart. It’s focused on external behaviors and what rules
are needed to govern them. Greg defined religion this way: A system of beliefs
and behaviors that people embrace to ‘get okay’ with whatever picture of God or
gods they happen to believe in.” As Greg described this, people caught up in religion are motivated by avoiding punishment on the one hand and gaining some sort of reward on the other.

Instead, Greg encouraged us to take the focus off of ourselves and put it onto
God. It’s not about what we do for God that establishes and maintains our
relationship with God. It’s about what God has already done for us in Christ.

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Topics: Covenant, Relationships

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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 13: 10-17

    On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

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