There are many strange dishes on offer at the Religion buffet. Did you know Jedism is now a bona fide religion, thanks to an Internet campaign and Star Wars fans (who would have thought those two could work together?)?
I do few things in life really well, but one of the things I have mastered is eating. Stick me at an inner city food truck line-up and I am as happy as a hipster in skinny jeans.
For some people this environment can be overwhelming, too many options, so many choices. Dancing Deano’sDoughdogs! El Capo Crab n Cheese! Frozen Dumpling Yoghurt! Big Jung’s Southern-style Korean BBQ fish ribs! It is a sad fact that Melbourne now has more food trucks than ambulances.
You could easily sit back and think “Doesn't really matter what I order – it’s all food and any food will satisfy my hunger.&rdquo
It is a lot like that with Religions.
Today you’ll have the Jewish Jam Donut Van parked next to the Islamic Ice Cream truck across from the Hindu Hotdogs and the Buddhist Burger Co, along with the Christian Caravan of Crunch. So many options, all seeming to do things differently but ultimately offering the same thing – access to God.
But what does the Christian menu offer that makes it so different? So crunchy? What is it that keeps the crowds returning over the centuries despite the critics, despite the trends?
Jesus the man who says:
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”(John 6:35)
Jesus, God’s son sent to live among us on earth, who states:
“…I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30)
Jesus who asks:
“…You believe in God. Believe also in me.” (John 14:1)
That last one cuts through for me. Today many people, religious or not, will claim to believe in God. A woman I once spoke to told me: “I believe in God but I also believe in aliens.” She was dressed in aluminium foil and Crocs at the time, which may explain a lot, but like most people she was missing the key ingredient in this dish – the blood red sauce of Jesus.
If I am honest, I don't believe in Religion. By Religion I mean any systematic structure that constantly has me in a debt/payment relationship with God, one that I can never be free from or fully live up to. To me Religion is all about things I need to do to get right with God. It can be an exhausting, boring, difficult, expensive, tasteless, embarrassing and weird task depending on which one you choose to follow.
I do believe in Jesus though; His life, death and resurrection. I believe Him when He said that He was the Son of God, that He came to forgive and die for my sins and give me life to the full.
Where Religion says getting right with God will take this and cost that, Jesus says, “It took me.”
Romans 5:8 covers it “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
This is the grace of God and it is grace that separates Christianity from all the other world religions… along with those stupid fish stickers, a penchant for flannel shirts and overuse of the word ‘Awesome’.
Grace rolls the whole food van of religion over. Traditionally, Religion says that God doesn't love you until you have atoned or reached enlightenment. Christianity says despite your brokenness, God loves you where you are at, and points to Jesus as proof
As author Jeffersen Bethke writes in his bookJesus>Religion: “God’s grace isn’t nice and cute. It’s scandalous.” Ours is a God not waiting for his people to come to him, but pursuing them despite their rebellion.
I feast on this concept of grace. That it is not about what I do, but what has been done by Jesus that leaves me full, content and right with God. It fills me time and time again.
Friends of mine will sometimes comment “Cool shoes by the way. This Grace stuff sounds great. I like it. But why does it matter? Isn't it just another way to God?”
It matters because of who offers it, and what He says about His standing with God.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Grace is the main ingredient of Christianity. Grace says no more queuing, no more chasing, no more paying, no more hunger. Eat once and be satisfied.