Study Guide: Sociopath Religion

Sunday June 30, 2013 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

A sociopath is a person who, for whatever reason, cannot feel emotions. They function by replicating behaviors in their life. In this sermon, Greg shows how religion can sometimes be sociopathic, and we are called to not judge others’ behaviors.

Extended Summary:

A sociopath is a person who has a personality disorder that causes them to not feel emotions the way that a normal person would. The only things this person understands are behaviors. They are really good at knowing what a good person acts like, but they have no idea what a good person feels like. They don’t understand the emotions associated with value, worth, relationships, and love.

A sociopathic religion is a religion where people get life from doing the right behaviors but don’t understand the love of God. People go through the motions that they think their God wants, but never understand the heart change that comes with following Jesus. This religion becomes dangerous because judgment reigns. It’s not about the heart of people, but it’s about the behaviors that people do. And this religion starts to make these behaviors the ruler by which everyone is measured.

The story of Cain and Abel shows that this has been around since the beginning of humanity. Cain and Abel were brothers who competed to impress God. Abel worked the flocks while Cain tilled the fields. Abel brought an offering from his flocks and Cain brought an offering from his fields. God looked down with favor on Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. Cain decided to kill Abel because his offering was rejected.

Cain made the offering about the competition between him and Abel. Instead of trying to please the Lord, he became angry that someone else outperformed him. God approved of Abel’s sacrifice, not because it was a better sacrifice, but because Abel’s heart was right when offering the sacrifice. And the first act of violence in the Bible was religious in nature, and it shows the danger of a sociopathic religion.

Sociopathic religion trains people to judge. When everything is about behaviors and outward appearances, then people begin to measure themselves against one another. Their standing with God depends, not on their heart, but on their performance. And they begin to get life from judging others instead of life from God. In addition, these people become blind to their own performance issues and make everyone else’s sins greater than their own. In a world where all fall short, they convince themselves that they’ve fallen a little less short and are therefore better. Instead of serving others they condemn others. And this is not what God wants from his people.

We are called to love and not judge. God wants our hearts changed and not just our behaviors. We need to let go of our judgments and begin to see the world as Jesus wants us to see it. Instead of feeling justified in our behaviors, we should feel justified by Jesus’ work on the cross and then view everyone in our life through this lens. To live in love, we must let go of sociopathic religion.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Thinking about the story of Cain and Abel, are there any areas of your life in which you are or have tried using sacrifices/behaviors as a replacement for having a right relationship with God? (Some examples might be charitable donations, church volunteering, etc…)
  2. Understanding that Abel’s murder was caused due to Cain’s anger from comparing sacrifices, what impact might this have on our view of offering gifts to God?
  3. What sins in your own life do you tend to disregard or allow due to judging other people’s behaviors?
  4. Are there sins you judge because you feel guilty not judging them? Are there certain people you feel need to be judged?
  5. As we continue this series on judgment, who in your life do you see as a non-judgmental person? How might you get help from them in judging less?