“I love God, but I hate religion.”
That Facebook status statement confuses me. I thought that loving God is religion and that religion is all about loving God and neighbor. Perhaps the frustration some feel toward religion is not because fishing itself is bad, but because we’ve not been fishing in the right pond. Let me explain.
Years ago, my aunt had a catfish
pond built on her farm. She stocked it and fed her fish every day. The results, we were told, was a pond so packed that the water roiled with a teeming mass of catfish so fat and crowded that you could walk across the water on their backs. Dad and I were invited to fish there.
Following the directions provided, Dad drove us to the pond and we excitedly started casting. Nothing happened. We adjusted depth and tried again. Nothing! We switched bait and tried different spots around the pond. Not a thing. It was south Georgia July hot and we were a little bothered. OK, let’s be honest. We were mad! We felt we had been had. Like church to some, we had been promised thrills only to get nothing but trouble.
Then my cousin drove up and asked what we were doing. When she laughed at our answer, we were even more frustrated – until she explained, “this is just a watering hole for cows; the fish pond is in the other pasture!”
We changed ponds. And, wow, did the experience change! The fish really were huge. And hungry! I’ve never before or since caught so many fish so fast. Fishing in the right pond really makes a difference!
Fishing in the right place religiously makes all the difference, too.
So what is the right pond for Christianity? Is it temples and sanctuaries, sacraments and ceremonies? Is it clergy and collars, choirs and confession? Interestingly, none of those are described in the New Testament as part of God’s new covenant with his people.
We war over worship, dividing over contemporary versus traditional, orchestra or acapella. Yet, our Bible says that Christians worship by offering ourselves as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1) through Christ-like relationship with others – service, love, hospitality, etc. (Romans 12:2ff).
Could it be that we have been fishing in the wrong pond? Might that explain the tsunami of frustration with “organized religion”?
The good news is: the right pond is just around the corner.