It’s hard to not be religious. After all, to be a Christian you have to be religious, right? Actually, there are a lot of religious people in the world, and always have been. The religions are all over the world, including the oriental religions, I can’t name them all, but everyone has at least one that comes to mind. Their followers faithfully follow their concept of a god, and now so did the people of Jesus’ time. The thing is, the Pharisees hated Jesus. He was the focus point of all their studies.
Religion or Christianity? Which one? Is there a difference? Religion is a little bit dangerous — people kill each other over it.
The battle began early with Adam and Eve’s boys. You see, humans are designed to worship. We might not stop believing in God, but we get into trouble when we start believing in a method of our own design. It happens a lot.
Now you wouldn’t think it, but David (the apple of God’s eye) tried to worship God in his own way and a fellow was killed because of it. Oh yes, I guess you think I am talking about Uriah — no, not him. It was another person, maybe an innocent bystander. His name was Uzza. Now this is what happened.
David wanted to honor God by bringing the Ark of God, the chest containing the sacred covenant, to Jerusalem. He called a meeting with his officials, officers, the generals and captains, and laid out his plan. “With your approval,” he said, “we will hold a grand festival, invite everyone and bring the Ark to a place of honor.” He didn’t say it just like that, but you can read it for yourself in I Chronicles 13.
It seemed like a very good idea, and everyone was excited. So they went to Kiriath-jearim, where the chest had been neglected for a very long time. The Bible says they celebrated with all their might, singing, dancing and shouting. It was a grand party. But then in the middle of all that fun, disaster struck. The oxen stumbled and the new cart started to tip, so Uzza put out his hand to steady the Ark and was instantly struck dead.
David was furious. After all, he was honoring God. Why would God kill a person who only wanted to protect the Ark from harm? David knew he was at fault, but he didn’t know why.
(Now remember, I am putting myself in this situation. You must read it for yourself and see what you think.) But, I believe when David cooled off, he went back to the Scriptures — those old hard to read, dusty books (even then people didn’t really have confidence that God’s Word was the true path to wisdom). On reading them, he learned that, although they had meant well, they had completely disregarded the detailed instructions of how to move the Ark.
David realized that although he had called a conference with the most important people in the land, they had neglected to call God into the plans. They, with great sincerity, had done the right thing in the wrong way.
David discovered, in the book of Exodus that people who were not purified and touched the mountain of God when they were coming out of Egypt would die. It was important. God sent Moses down the mountain to the people more than once, warning them to prepare themselves. Later, Moses gave specific instructions on how not only the Ark, but the tabernacle and all it furnishings were to be handled. Only the Kohath clan of the Levite tribe were to carry the ark. They were to cover it and carry it with poles through the special handles. God had warned, through Moses, that any person touching the ark would die.
It seems God made a big issue of a small happening. A man, put out his hand to steady the Ark, to do a good deed, and he died. God does make an issue of how we serve and worship Him. In John 4, He tells us He wants us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. But the time is coming, and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship Him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).
He is insulted with ritualistic and ignorant worship. He wants a relationship with us that is based on trust in the truth about His love and grace. Sound hard? Sound too simple? People try to make knowing God harder than it is. Christianity is pretty simple — just know and love His Son. James says good religion will follow.
So how about religion and Christ? They can be the same, but they are different.
Religion is something to believe and do. Attending church and reading the Scriptures head up the list of good religious habits. The Pharisees were faithful in all of these. But Christianity is quite a bit more and a lot more simple.
Christ is someone to know and trust.
David learned his lesson. The second time he moved the ark, he first studied and then he called in the right people to follow God’s instructions. Religion can be dangerous. Christianity is life-changing.