Destructive Religion

About ten years ago a vibrant growing church in the south called a new pastor. The pastor decided his congregation needed purifying. He discovered that a member of his church owned a convenience store and sold beer, so the pastor and elders kicked him out. Then they kicked out a Sunday school teacher who asked hard questions about the Bible. Next they kicked out a college student for getting pregnant out of wedlock. They followed that by kicking out a couple who questioned the right of the pastor to rule like a dictator. This went on and on. Within a year the church dropped from 500 in worship to about 50. The following year they went belly up and closed the church. Such is the destructive power of judgmental religion.

Of course, this kind of judgmental religion is not new. In Jesus’ day a group of self-righteous religious leaders constantly dogged Jesus. They were holier-than-thou and extremely judgmental. They believed they had all the right answers, and they condemned everyone who didn’t agree with them. They were also the only people Jesus didn’t get along with or like. In fact, Jesus constantly challenged their arrogant, judgmental spirit. He taught his followers to avoid their kind of self-righteous religion and leave judgment to God.

Several years ago my good friend temporarily quit going to church. He was going through a difficult divorce, and for a while he stopped attending worship. Soon thereafter, a judgmental Christian coworker began hounding him to attend her church. She had no concern for his personal struggles; she just knew he was going to hell if he didn’t go to church. Although she was extremely negative, judgmental and obnoxious, he tried for many months to be nice to her. Finally, she wore him down. One day she said to my friend, “Don’t you want to go to heaven?” In weary exasperation he responded, “Not if it’s full of people like you.”