If you want to watch the video, click here.
I was pleased with the mature discussion that ensued in our church youth group after watching the video this past week. We began by discussing the question, “Are God and religion the same thing?” The group, which included a few young people who grew up in strong Christian homes but a large number who did not, readily agreed that God was separate from religion.
The conversation then turned to the idea that if Jesus is God in human flesh, is He worth loving or can we just ignore His existence. We looked at John 15:15 – “No one shows greater love than when he lays down his life for his friends” and discussed how we all like to do nice things for our friends. We then discussed Romans 5:8 – “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” The group was pretty impressed that Christ did a really big thing in dying for His enemies instead of just His friends. That was one proof to the group that Jesus must have been God in human flesh because no mere human would die for their enemies.
The conversation then turned to how we should respond to that kind of love. The young people had a number of great answers, which included a discussion of John 14:15 – Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments” and Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Old Testament rules hang on these two commandments.” The discussion about what it meant to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and love others like we love ourselves was pretty intense. The group had a lot of great ideas. But the conversation got really interesting when we shifted the conversation away from loving Jesus to loving “religion.”
Though people may define “religion” in many different ways, we defined it as “Religion is a system of rules and rituals that people create in order to make sense of life and connect with God.” We went on to agree that though most of us say that we do not like “rules,” we actually feel safer when there are reasonable rules in place. But clearly everyone’s definition of “reasonable” is different. When applied to religion, it was obvious to the group that that some religions are reasonable and some are not. I was impressed that the group had not bought into the idea that all religions are equal. They readily agreed that some religions are clearly better than others.
The group decided that a focus on the PERSON of Jesus instead of the RULES of various religions would help a person make sense of life and be connected to God. That did not mean that rules had no place in religion, since reasonable rules make us feel safe, it just meant that when we focus on JESUS, the “rules” tend to take care of themselves. The group agreed that as we come to understand who Jesus is, then we come to understand who God is. Therefore, “religion” that helps us understand Jesus will be worth learning about and following. Whereas, religion that pushes us to follow anyone or anything other than Jesus is going to be like a weight that drags us down, which we will eventually “hate.”
We concluded by saying that we should LOVE Jesus and seek to follow His “rules” of loving Him back and loving others as much as we love ourselves. By doing this we may also find a “religion” that we can love, but the focus of that religion must ALWAYS be JESUS or it will not help us.
Though many churches often think of young people as being shallow and immature (and they sure can be!), I believe that when given the chance and a little guidance from a caring mentor, they can think through complex ideas and come to profound conclusions. Perhaps if we had more discussions in church youth groups and fewer lectures, more young people would love Jesus, and more would probably like “religion” a little better too.