“Christian” – Religion versus Faith
by Regular Contributor Peter
Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, “Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it tares?” He said unto them, “An enemy hath done this.” The servants said unto him, “Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?” But he said, “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.”
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:24-30)
Do you know what the difference is between an ‘academic’ and a ‘scholar’? If you do, you may understand this thought of mine about Christianity as a ‘religion’ as opposed to Christianity as faith in the living God. An academic is someone who works in a university, publishes so she or he won’t perish, and pads his or her curriculum vitae with activities and publications to obtain tenure and promotion. It is an ‘end justifies the means’ enterprise, and as such, the ‘means’ are often insincere and fatuous. In contrast to an academic, a scholar studies and thinks for the genuine rewards of the process of studying and thinking. The academic is a product of a human institution; the scholar is a product of authentic individual sincerity.
Christianity as a religion can sometimes be lot like academe, and the practice of Christianity sadly, for many people, a lot like being an academic. It produces, like other religions in the world, its own institutions, bureaucracies, policies, practices, and conventions. It builds upon all of the same worldly structures as business corporations or governments. Its chief public proponents assume the mantle of officers of a ‘club’, public-sector managers, or university academics. Its followers become as consumers, members, citizens, or students. All are like the ‘academic’, fitting into human-made structures best described as ‘instrumental’ – that is, using ‘A’ to get ‘B’.
Christianity as a faith, however, like the work of an authentic scholar, is not a ‘thing’ of human-made means and ends. Christianity as a faith is a gift from our Lord God and Saviour, just as salvation through Jesus’ love is a gift fully intended for us. Like the scholar, we willingly do more because it has become our heart’s desire. Therefore, we joy in reading and contemplating on His Word, thinking, and giving ourselves in continual prayer while try our best to understand God’s will. Unlike the academic, our relationship with God is ultimately outwith the strictures of a human institution. Our being is in reaching out and responding to His love for each and every one of us – every day of our life.
Christianity as a religion, as a human institution, is much like a field sown with both wheat and tares (weeds). Both may grow and thrive in the field, but when the day of reaping comes, the tares will be known for what they are, and they shall be separated. Though the tares grow in the same field, they will be burnt at harvest time. And the wheat whose inward desires of the heart focused solely on the Lord and His glory shall be preserved.