Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Was Jefferson Bethke right? Should we "Love God and Hate Religion"?

Last year a video went viral titled "Why I Love God but Hate Religion" (You can view it here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY).  Once it came out I was asked a ton of different questions about it. Here is my review as presented in a sermon at the West Visalia Church of Christ.

The Video’s Stats (As of 1-12-12 at 6:37pm)
    • It is the most “viral” video of last week.
    • Thursday morning it had about 1.8 Million Views.
    • At 6:37pm last night it had over 10 million.
    • It has been shared by individuals on social media sites over 1.3 million times.
    • Any religious video that gains this much attention so fast deserves our attention. 
The Video
    • It is spoken word poetry done by Jefferson Bethke (youtube ID: bball1989).
    • Bethke has placed a few other videos on Youtube. One that has also gained a lot of attention, is a well done video on being pure titled “Sexual Healing”.
    • He is a 2011 graduate of Pacific University with a degree in Political Science and currently is a member of the Mars Hill Church (Federal Way Campus) in Auburn WA, where Mark Driscoll serves as the Lead Pastor. 
    • Jeff works at “Jubilee Reach”, a non-profit community center.
Outline of Review
    • 1. What the Video Got Right.
    • 2. What the Video Got Wrong.
    • 3. Some Final Truths to Note.
Preliminary Matters
    • This is not a critique of the sincerity or ability of Jeff Bethke or the quality of production. (The video is well put together and Jeff is a powerful speaker who appears very sincere).
    • Not all will come to the same conclusions about the video as I have. (As demonstrated by how many have “shared” the video.
    • What I have perceived from this video may not be the authors intentions. I have never spoken to Jeff, nor read or heard an interview where he explains his views.
1. What the Video Got Right.      (Quotes from the video are in blue)
  • #1 Jesus does not want us to put on an act. He is more concerned with the “inner man”.
    • (Video Quotes)
      • “republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian”
      • “Now I ain’t judging I’m just saying be careful of putting on a fake look, Because there’s a problem if people only know that you’re a Christian by that little section on your facebook”.
    • (These Statements are Correct)
      • Jesus said “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).
  • #2 Hypocrisy is a big problem among Christians.
    • (Video Quotes)
      • “I played this game too; no one seemed to be on to me, I was acting like church kid, while addicted to pornography. I’d go to church on Sunday, but on saturday getting faded”... “Spend my whole life putting on this fa├žade of neatness”
    • (Good Thought to Consider)
      • We should not be fake. When we do have struggles with sin, we need to admit them and not hide them and act like everything is ok.  (This is the SIN of PRIDE)
      • “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
  • #3 Jesus came to seek and save THE LOST.
    • (Video Quotes)
      • “If grace is water, then the church should be an ocean,
        Cuz its not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken”...”The Son of God not supported self-righteousness, not now, not then”
    • (A Correct Thought)
      • No one is more worthy of salvation than another.  We should welcome the lost, the broken and the hurting.
      • We often only reach out to those who we like.
      • “And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17).
  • #4 We often have a tendency to have messed up priorities.
    • (Video Quote)
      • “Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?” 
    • (This is a Question We Should Be Asking)
      • We often spend church funds in a way that benefits us (comfortable buildings, elaborate programs etc) as opposed to showing love toward God and toward our neighbors.  Our attention is often focused inward.
      • “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
2. What the Video Got Wrong.
  • #1 - “Jesus came to abolish religion”
    • False: Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament religion and became the head of the church.
      • (Matthew 5:17) "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill”.
      • (Matthew 16:18) “...and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it”.
      • The only thing Jesus “abolished” was the enmity/wall that separated the Jews and Gentiles from being one in Him (Ephesians 2:13-22). The Scriptures nowhere make the case that Christ abolished all religion.
  • #2 - “...religious people, and why Jesus called em fools. Don’t you see hes so much better than just following some rules?”
    • Partial Truth: Jesus did not call “all” religious people fools, only legalistic, self-righteous and judgmental religious people (like the Scribes and Pharisees). In (Matthew 23:17) He called them “Blind Fools”.
    • Partial Truth: Following Jesus is not “just following some rules”, however, Jesus does expect us to obey “His Rules”.
      • (John 15:10) “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love”.
  • #3 - “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.”
    • False: Jesus is the center of true religion. Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
      • There are “false religions” that are manmade inventions. But there is also “pure religion” created by God.
      • Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27).
3. Some Final Truths to Note
    • #1. This video presents a false dichotomy. “Jesus or Religion?”.
      • You can’t have true religion without Jesus and can’t have Jesus without embracing true Christian religion.
    • #2. We cannot have Jesus without following Jesus’ teachings.
    • #3 The faith Jesus wants us to have is a “working” and “obedient” faith. 
      • (James 2:17) “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead”.
    • #4 - Jesus does not hate religion, He hates legalism. (Like what was practiced by the Pharisees).
      • Jesus hates it when we make up laws and bind them on others. In speaking about this type of legalism He said:
        • “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (Matt. 23:4).
      • The video attempts to redefine “legalism” as “religion”.
        • We should not redefine the term “religion”, but instead call legalism what it really is... (ie. SIN!).
  • As with any lesson, sermon, class or video, we must always check what is being taught with the Bible.
    • “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
    • Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
  • With any teaching, we should embrace what is Truth, but reject what is incorrect.
  • One truth that we need to be reminded of that this video did bring to light is the fact that all of us need Jesus and Jesus bore the punishment that we all deserved.
  • May we be a people that place our trust solely in Jesus and humbly obey His Word.

In preparing this response, i came across a couple blog posts that provided very helpful material on this subject that I encourage you to check out.