Christianity is not a religion. Religion is humans trying to work their way to God. Christianity is God coming to men and women through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16
There are many things about this shirt that stood out to me. The first was the comparison between Christianity and Religion. I have often felt that we, all people, have really messed up the concept of what God designed for us by placing parameters, rules and other exclusive facets to God's love.
What is so beautiful about our God and what this slogan is referring to in the last sentence, is that God meets us where we are. He comes to us, in our darkest places. He comes to us when we are asking Him to leave us alone. And, He doesn't force himself upon us, He simply stands in the door way, always with us, but waiting for us to welcome Him in.
This isn't a God who draws lines in the sand to determine who is worthy and who is not. In this Holy Kingdom of God, there are no "throwaway people." All are included in God's grace and love irregardless of their: gender, race, age, ethnicity, class, education, physical ability or disability, mental capacity, self-confidence, social status and/or various forms of addictions.
In John 8:1-11, we see this all encompassing and redeeming love of Christ.
"Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. all the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, sir." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."" (NRSV)God's love is far more in-depth and reaching than any of us can comprehend. One of the most prominent and consistent themes of the Bible is that of love. Of loving God, loving self, loving neighbor, loving the 'least of these'...and so on. God doesn't say, love those who you feel comfortable loving or who you feel deserve it. If God loves all of His children, don't you think we have the obligation to at least try?
So often, this ideology of Religion places wedges between people and God in unloving ways that God never intended. People so wrongly use religion as a weapon and wield select scriptures at people to try and prove points or cause hurt when more often than not, they do not truly understand the context behind the scripture they are so irresponsibly flinging. Have you done that? Have you used scripture against someone? Now ask yourself if you think that's why God gave those words...to be used as weapons? I regret to say that I have done just that. Though the scripture I used may not have been wrong, inappropriate or misquoted, it was the way in which I used the scripture as a weapon of religion that I find fault with. I have come to learn that we can't expect others to learn to love God if we use God in ways to hurt. The two simply don't go together.
Often times, we consume ourselves with the business of religion. We fill our lack of true understanding and comprehension with sometimes unnecessary man-made laws that cause more harm than good. In the world of religion, we have so many different spiritual traditions and beliefs and foundations, denominations, rituals, ceremonies...the list is endless. And though all of these things are important because they are our human intellectual attempt of getting closer to God in various different spiritual ways, we error in our thinking when we replace the true message of Christ with our rules.
To me, it doesn't make sense to be exclusive of people and then to do it in the name of Jesus. Jesus tells us to love our neighbor, to love the least of these, that the 'greatest of these is love'...how does love equal violence, bigotry, sexism, phobias, culture clicks, throwaway people? I don't know all the answers nor will I ever claim to be close, but what I do know is the love that God showed for all of us through the gift of His son which we celebrate during this season and then the ultimate gift of Christ's death. A love that deep, that intense, that all encompassing, cannot possibly be exclusive can it? Or did I read the scripture John 3:16 wrong when it says that "God so loved the WORLD?" World - that seems pretty inclusive to me.
So at the end of the day, I believe religion gives us structure, boundaries, guidelines, rules, ideology...but I don't believe that religion should ever come before God and that means whatever my pre-conceived denominational or otherwise stereotypes may be, they always take a back seat to God's word. And this, this is where you have to be of your own sound mind and spirituality. I'm not saying what you believe is wrong or what your pastor or priest tells you is wrong. What I am saying, is take time for self-reflection and spiritual discovery. Don't just take what someone tells you as factual. Seek out the truth in Christ by devoting your life to a committed and constant dialogue with God.
The only true way is through Christ and each person is going to get there differently, but that doesn't make any one person worse or better than the other. The way I see it, Jesus has big enough arms to welcome us all in, hug us all, love us all, forgive us all. Jesus did just that when he opened his arms on the cross for us all...the WORLD. He loved us that much. It's time we start loving him back by loving others in the same way.