“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him” (Luke 10: 30-34).
“I’m too busy doing God’s work for God to do His work in me” (attributed to Bill Hybels).
Sometimes “religion” can be the enemy of “faith.” Sometimes, but we need to be careful when we try to understand this. (Many of you are familiar with Jefferson Bethke who spoke on campus last fall and became famous with his “spoken word” on the “Jesus vs. religion” theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY )
What’s the difference between religion and faith?
True faith opens our eyes to see the heart of God, and this seeing leads to a surrendered life shaped by the Father’s heartbeat.
Religion is the necessary and crucial effort to give shape to that heartbeat, shape that includes doctrines, lifestyle guidelines, and community structures (like churches and Christian universities). Religion is a servant that supports the surrendered life of faith.
But sometimes religious practices become masters that enslave instead of servants that liberate. True faith opens our eyes to see the world as our Father sees it. When religion acts as a master, it blinds us, so that we walk with “eyes wide shut.”
That’s what happened to the priest and the Levite in the well-known Good Samaritan parable. They were important people who carried on crucial religious duties. They knew that if they touched a dead body, the law would disqualify them from carrying out their responsibilities until they had carried out complex cleansing rituals. They didn’t know if the man on the road was dead or alive, but finding out would require touching him, and that was too risky. So they gave him a wide berth.
They walked with eyes wide shut, blinded because they idolized religious practice.
Last night at Church in the Box Jane Sinden reflected on some of the blind spots in her life that she came to recognize and repented of: athletic performance, physical appearance, clothing, and more. Her testimony reminded us that not only religious practices can serve as blinding idols in our lives, but many others things can as well.
Lent is a good time for self-examination: invite the Lord to reveal your blind spots to you, just as David did: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139: 23-24).