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Separating Religion from Christianity

My grandmother Joana often greeted me with a particular phrase. After hugging and kissing me on the cheek, she would look me in the eye and joyfully exclaim, “you’re such a good little religious boy.” At the time, I never really knew how to respond to this comment. Yet, I didn’t want to let her down so I tried to stay out of trouble as much as possible. Religion is what others want from you like first century Pharisees who stressed following God’s law.

Then some of the Pharisees said, This Man [Jesus] is not from God, because He does not observe the Sabbath. But others said, How can a man who is a sinner (a bad man) do such signs and miracles? So there was a difference of opinion among them. 17 Accordingly they said to the blind man again, What do you say about Him, seeing that He opened your eyes? And he said, He is [He must be] a prophet! – John 9:16-17

The Mishnah and Gemara are two components of the Talmud. The Mishnah and Gemara are man made expectations written by Jewish religious leaders focused on religiously following God’s commands, decrees and precepts. The main problem with these two books is that they stress religious exercises rather than entering into and developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Christianity on the other hand is finding out what God can do for you via faith in Christ.

And He said to them, Is it lawful and right on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to take it? But they kept silence. And He glanced around at them with vexation and anger, grieved at the hardening of their hearts, and said to the man, Hold out your hand. He held it out, and his hand was [completely] restored. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately held a consultation with the Herodians against Him, how they might [devise some means to] put Him to death, Mark 3:4-6.

One of the best examples in the Bible that separates religion from Christianity is in the passage above. While the Pharisees are focused on keeping the Sabbath, Jesus is searching for a way to share God’s love and power on this sacred day. As these teachers of the law are focused on a zealous observance, Jesus wants to heal a man with a shriveled hand. Following a frustrating conversation with these religious hypocrites, Jesus performs a miracle. While Jesus honors his heavenly Father on the Sabbath, Pharisees are distracted by religion and end up spending more than a year trying to find a way to kill Jesus. This distinction is clear and a good reason to focus on a relationship with Jesus rather than merely a religious exercise.

by Jay Mankus

It Could Be Worse

Whenever the frailty of life comes knocking on your door, its never a good feeling.  In the wee hours of the morning, as a routine surgery takes a turn for the worse, fear often grips unsuspecting souls.  A doctor doesn’t need to say much before one discerns a dire situation.  Nonetheless, as long as the heart is beating, hope remains alive.

Prior to my mother being rushed to the hospital, I read a passage from Leviticus 13:45-46.  As bad as my current trial appeared, this passage gave me an unique perspective, it could be worse.  You could become a social outcast, banned from entering the city gates, due to an untreatable disease.  Once pronounced unclean by the priest, hugging, touching or kissing was prohibited.  Like solitary confinement, individuals spent the rest of their days in isolation, stripped of the relationships they once held dear.

Today, I have a new appreciation for the words of James 1:2-4 and James 4:13-14.  Seeing, feeling and experiencing pain is humbling, opening your eyes to the simple things people take for granted daily.  However, despite the ups and down in the hospital the last 24 hours, I know it could be worse.  While I pray for my mother’s condition to improve, the truth in Luke 1:37 serves as a source of strength.  Although it could be worse, with God all things are possible.

by Jay Mankus

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