Religion breeds hypocrisy. Yup, our critics are right. It’s because people, even religious people, love loopholes. We all look for the “edge” sometimes . . . what we can get by with, hopefully undetected. Even the unhealthy phrase “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission” is popular in religious circles. We tend to look for “loopholes” in our faith system to avoid the more restrictive “rules.” Catholics manipulate dictates concerning birth control. Muslims miss their facing East 5 times a day with their faces to the ground. Christians routinely break the 10 Commandments and more certainly dismiss or marginalize obedience to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Has it caught your notice that religious people are better at believing than behaving? (For the record, God has made note of that from the beginning.) Every major faith system has some form of “golden rule” to abide by, but we all seem to find an “end run” around that imperative from time to time. Rules tend to breed hypocrisy, and at some level we all tend to be hypocrites. Ouch!
Rules always assume some type of relationship. If you are a parent, you set rules for your kids. If a neighbor calls to see if your kids are in bed, you’d probably think or say, “It’s none of their business.” After all, they were your kids before your rule book even unfolded and they are yours even if there are no rules! Relationship precedes rules in this type of family model. Now in some cases, relationships are created by one’s willingness to agree to or adopt a set of rules. Clubs run like that. Agreeing to rules is how the relationship begins . . . and breaking rules is how it can end.
So, in your “religion,” is it the family model or club model that reflects the connection between rules and relationship? How you answer this question will determine the way you view God and the way you assume He views you. This would be a good starting point to discuss the relationship between grace and legalism, but there isn’t space here to do so. For now, just consider how you live it. Family style . . . or club? Think About It.