Study Guide: The Evil of Religion

Sunday August 17, 2008 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

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.

Extended Summary:

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.

Reflection Questions:

  1. When you think about what Christianity is for you, what comes to your mind first? Beliefs? Behaviors? Attendance patterns? Quiet times?
  2. In thinking about the answers to the first question above, do you relate to those things as rules or as support for your relationship with God?
  3. Recall Greg’s comments from last week about the tongue being the rudder of our ship. Where might you be tempted to judge others in relationship to their Christian faith?
  4. What would be the best use of the Sabbath for you this week?