I recently came across this quote from the book The Parables of Grace, by Robert Ferah-Capon, an Episcopal Priest. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
“The entire human race is profoundly and desperately religious. From the dim beginnings of our history right up to the present day, there is not a man, woman or child of us who has ever been immune from the temptation to think that the relationship between God and humanity can be repaired from our side by our efforts.
Whether these efforts involve credal correctness, cultic performances or ethical achievements, or whether they amount to little more than crassly superstitious behaviour, we are all committed in some way to them.
If we are not convinced that God can be conned into being favourable to us by dint of our doctrinal orthodoxy or chicken sacrifices or the gritting of our moral teeth, we still have a hard time shaking the belief that stepping over the sidewalk cracks or hanging our bathroom towels so the labels don’t show, will somehow render the ruler of the universe kind hearted, soft headed or both.
But as the epistle to the Hebrews pointed out long ago, all such behaviour is bunk. The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. Nor can any other religious act do what it sets out to do. Either it is ineffective for it’s purpose or the supposed effective intellectual, spiritual or moral uprightness it counts on to do the job is simply unavailable.
The point is we haven’t got a single card in our hand that can take a single trick against God.
Religion therefore, despite the correctness of its insistence that something needs to be done about our relationship with God, remains unqualified bad news. It traps us in a game where we will always and everywhere lose.
But the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is precisely good news. It is the announcement in the death and resurrection of Jesus, that God has simply called off the game. That he has taken all of the disasters religion was trying to remedy and, without any recourse to religion at all, set them to rights by himself.
How sad then, that the church acts as if it is in the religion business rather than the gospel proclaiming business. What a disservice not only to itself but also to a world perpetually sinking in the quagmire of religiosity, when it harps on creed, cult and conduct, as the touch stones of salvation. What a perversion of the truth that sets us free; while it takes the news that ‘While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ and turns it into a proclamation of God as one more insufferable book keeper.”