What True Religion Looks Like

A man stands in the dock in the highest court in the land and is found guilty of murder. The Judge in her deliberations sentences him to life and because of this man’s crime, she declares all men in the land should be imprisoned immediately!

The view of the court was that this man was representative of all men, therefore his actions and punishment cover all men in that land! Some of you may wish that this story was true, however sadly it’s just an illustration.

I was in a brief conversation on Facebook recently in the aftermath of yet another act of terrorism and I was told that all religions should be banned. The person commenting wrote this with such venom that I was taken aback. It sprung a seed of an idea for today’s post.

The story at the beginning underlies the issue with what is wrong with the Facebook comment. Summed up in the maxim you can’t tar everyone with the same brush. But more importantly you wouldn’t blame all humankind for the actions of one person, yet when someone Hijacks a religion for their personal ideology suddenly all of that religion is to blame. It simply isn’t congruent to bash a religion if we are not prepared to hold to the crazy idea suggested in the opening story.

So what does true religion look like, what are its hallmarks?  The Bible in the book of James chapter 1 says:

…“to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.”

The Koran similarly declares:

“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask”…

(Chapter 2, Verse 177)

Hinduism, Buddisim, and so on and so forth declare something similar. So what can we people of faith and none about religion what yardstick can we measure it by? Other than that true religion and with it, true faith is more than a book of words, or pious religiosity, bigger than a body of people or vast temples, synagogues and cathedrals made by human hands.

The truth about religion is that it’s found in soup kitchens, and food banks, and in lived out generosity and the welcome embrace of the other. Or a Jesus puts it you will be known by your love for one another.

True religion’s adherents shine their collective light in the darkness, so that the other, whoever they may be, might find their way home, might know they’re cherished, may discover how much they are loved by the loving God, in whose hands we place our fragile lives.

Finally, faith is not the problem, people are not the problem, hate is. Hate tried to win, but hates delusion is that it can win, it may leave its scars, but even love can heal that. Faith, hope and love overcome and the most powerful, for which there is no law, is love. Let’s redouble our efforts that our religion matches the yardstick, of something that is lived out, transformative, refreshing and something that brings healing.

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