I would like to clarify the term ‘religion’ because it is a generally misunderstood concept. ‘Religion’ is a term that refers to a person’s belief system; to the ‘who’ or ‘what’ that a person worships. So that begs the question, what does ‘worship’ mean? Here is the meaning of ‘worship’ provided by vocabulary.com : To worship is to show a lot of love and adoration for something. Religious believers worship gods, and people can worship other people and things too…
All people worship something or someone – God or gods or self or things or hobbies or people or systems of thought to which or to whom a person shows extreme devotion and interest and even sacrifice for. So we all believe in something or someone. The ‘someone’ Christians believe in is the God of the Bible. The foundation for my belief in God is not just having had an upbringing in the Christian faith, although I did have that. My belief does not come out of habit either, as though I am unaware of alternative belief systems and lifestyles. My belief is grounded in my acceptance that Jesus Christ was born into a particular time and place in history in a spectacularly miraculous way. He lived a life of never-ending giving to humans and to His Father in Heaven. He was executed in a cruel way even though He was perfectly innocent. Then, most spectacularly, He was resurrected from His state of death, not only in spirit, but also in the flesh. His body rose from the place where it had been lain – in a tomb, as was the custom in those days. To top off the story, the religious leaders in Israel at the time tried to suppress the truth of Jesus’ resurrection by bribing the Roman soldiers into lying about how Jesus’ body had disappeared:
Matthew 28:11-15 (NASB Strong’s (Lockman)) 11 Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.
Christianity is about the existence of the God of the Bible, outside of any human invention. Christianity is about following a Person because He was who He claimed to be – the Messiah, Saviour of the world. If He did not rise from death as related by the Gospel writers we might as well give up on Christianity and say with the Apostle Paul:
1 Corinthians 15:17-19 (ESV) 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
The resurrection that was effected in Christ is what we have been told will happen to all people who have ever lived, one day in the future, when Jesus returns to this earth to judge everyone. Some people will then go to eternal life to be with God forever and some to eternal separation from God – hell:
Matthew 25:31-34, 41 (ESV) 31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…41 Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Returning to the word, ‘religion’, the word carries no inherent virtue. Yet we find Christians and conservatives making comments like (applying the term to Islam, for example): “Islam is a political ideology, really” and “Islam is 95% political ideology and 5% religion”, as though that explains why jihadis commit extreme violence. Westerners have been brainwashed for centuries into believing that the material world is all that exits in life. A spiritual understanding of life is for weirdos. Well here is a group, and I am referring to jihadis, who are spiritual to the hilt and the West has no means of understanding it. It doesn’t compute in the Western mind that spiritual motivation can be anything but benevolent because Western benevolence, based upon Christian principles, is modelled and indeed given its life by the God of the Bible. Religion carries meaning only by the god or God who is worshipped.