Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Discerning Spirit

I've had no less than thirty friends on Facebook post this video this past week. 

It definitely has some poetic and legitimate points about God's grace 
and being an authentic Christ follower.

But the theology is a bit off, and without a discerning spirit, it's very easy to let some beautiful truths mingle with half truths, misleading phrases and blatant lies. 

We watched it and discussed this video in Sunday School this week because I wanted to be sure that my students were thinking for themselves. I want them to listen to a sermon, a study, or a video claiming truth about Jesus and be able to test it against the scripture they know in their hearts. 

My biggest concerns with this particular video were 
1) the claim that Jesus came to abolish religion and hated religion, and 
2) the inappropriate use of "It is finished" at the end of the video. 

First, the poem's thesis is that Jesus and religion are two 
completely separate and opposing entities. 

Now, it is a matter of semantics, depending on your perception of the word religion.
And I really think that what Bethke means is self righteousness, or legalism. 
But that's not what religion means, although there may be negative connotations associated with the word religion itself. Depending on the dictionary you use, religion means something like: an organized set of beliefs concerning a higher power, or organized worship. 

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophet; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." Matthew 5:17

Christianity is a religion, one that is centered on Jesus.  
So I don't think He hates that 
(although people who follow Christ still sin, and He does hate sin.)

In fact, James 1:27 says "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. "

And as much as it's easy to call out the church on everywhere it screws up, the church is there when natural disasters strike to help feed, clothe and rebuild communities; the church has helped raise awareness and crazy amounts of money to end human trafficking; the church has begun a nationwide trend in adoption that is NOT a last resort for families who can't have children, but rather an outpouring of love for children who need families. 

That is pure, undefiled religion.

As far as the ending, the final verse of the poem says,
"So for religion, no I hate it. In fact I literally resent it.
Because when Jesus said, "It is finished" I believe that He meant it.

Now if we refer to the fact that Bethke probably means legalism or self righteousness in place of that word religion, that line is understood. However, when he quotes Jesus, it can be misleading to the reader. It makes it sound like Jesus was saying that religion is finished, when in fact it was Jesus' sacrifice. It was the power of sin that was finished. It was God's separation from man, and salvation through keeping the law that was finished.  And using that quote out of context to serve the purpose of the poem is just not good, y'all.

I definitely appreciate the passion behind Jefferson Bethke's poem. 
His words aim to call a culture of church goers to be Christ followers
I know that a lot of older, wiser, more educated people have put in their two cents on the theology of this poem/video, but I thought that it was important to emphasize that we need to be examining whatever we put in our minds carefully. 

And because we are to represent Jesus in everything we do (Col 3:17), let's make sure that we know who Jesus is so that we can represent the true Christ, and not what we want Him to be or what's trendy in the young Christian subculture.  

I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've seen the video
or if you're so over this discussion already,
how are you careful to distinguish the true Christ
from what's trendy at the time?


  1. I understand your hesitation to agree with every idea presented in the video, but I don't believe you give the video enough credit for what the video's intent was.

    Matt Carter at the Austin Stone Community Church did an awesome sermon called Religion Vs. The Gospel. I think you should check it out.


  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I actually was at the conference Matt Carter was talking about during the message!

    I absolutely agree with the video's intent- grace over works. My issue is more with the semantics and the presentation, which can be confusing or ambiguous.

  3. hey, chelsea! oh, i feel you.
    i had reservations and was unsettled after the video.
    i was having trouble articulating my thoughts, thrn i read these posts linked here and agree 100%


    it's a tricky business, taking such a complex issue and simplifying it into a short spoken word. from all i have read by jefferson, he learned a lesson through this. really humble, pure hearted guy.


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