Review: Jesus > Religion

{By Taylor Turner}

I hate religion, in fact I literally resent it.” 

religion vs. jesus

If you are like me, you grew up in a Christian home with church involvement, Bible reading, and family devotions (all good things). I heard conversation from eschatology and millennialism, to hermeneutics and exegesis. Good topics to discuss; but, if we are interested in engaging the people of our culture where they are, this certainly isn’t the best way. However, our culture does talk about Jesus and religion; why not engage that discussion with a gospel focus?

For a long time no one compared and contrasted Jesus and religion with the light of the gospel, until now. Jefferson Bethke, author of Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus with over 24+ million views, wrote a follow-up book to his viral poem entitled “Jesus>Religion” that explains in detail the enormous difference between Jesus and religion. Both are words that our culture thinks of as synonymous. But are they?

What is religion? We hear the word being used on Facebook, twitter, and the news, but what does it really mean?

Bethke explains that religion is “what one must do, or behave like, in order to gain right standing with God.” Think legalism and you are not too far off from religion. In other words, religion is a ‘do this, don’t do that’ list and if you keep most of them you are on God’s ‘nice list.’  But if you haven’t kept the important rules you get stuck on the ‘naughty list’ until you rack up enough brownie points to get back on the ‘nice list.’ That’s religion.

How is religion’s message different from Jesus’ message? Jeff explains in his poem how Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums:

 One is the work of God one is a man made invention,

One is the cure and one is the infection.

Because Religion says do, Jesus says done.

Religion says slave, Jesus says son,

Religion puts you in shackles but Jesus sets you free.

Religion makes you blind, but Jesus lets you see.”

In John 19:30, right before Jesus died he said, “It is finished.” This finish wasn’t a partial finish that we have to pick up the leftovers to and actually cross the finish line. This is Jesus, God in human flesh, taking care of all our sin, for all of time. And this is the difference, Religion says “keep going, you have more rules to keep”; Jesus says “it is finished.” Done.

This is why Jesus is so much better than religion’s message of “try hard, do more, and be good.” Jesus calls us as his sons and daughters to “abandon dead, dry rule-keeping and embrace the promise of being truly known and deeply loved.”

I highly recommend “Jesus>Religion.”

It is a book that helped clarify and open my eyes to many ideas I wasn’t sure about and also some issues that never crossed my mind. I encourage you to read “Jesus>Religion”; it will spur you to think anew about religion and give you a fresh and joyous perspective on Jesus. 

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out Jefferson Bethke’s viral video here.