“Christianity is not the way. Christ is the way.” Preachers have those moments that cause trouble…if they’re doing it right, anyway. That was one of mine, that line about Christianity not being the way. It ruffled feathers, had a couple folks walk out and one even leave the church. It may seem clear to you what I meant…it did to me. Jesus did not come to start a new religion, and it is not the empty observance of religious tenets that brings us into union with the Triune God. I was just quoting the guy—Jesus—letting him speak for himself. “I am the way...to the Father,” he said. But whenever you let Jesus speak for himself, look out!
Preachers have a way of smoothing over his words, making excuses for him. “This is what he really meant,” we say. I didn’t do that in that sermon and it pissed people off. As long as we have God safely packed into platitudes and practices, we’re all good. The fact that God likely isn’t even there doesn’t faze us—we’d be bothered if he were there, really.
Don’t get me wrong. Christianity is fine—wonderful even—to the extent that it points to Christ. I’m not even one of those “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship” people. No, Christianity is a religion. And I don't consider religion a bad word. The religion that exists for regularly and intentionally (religiously) practicing prayer and study and fellowship and worship and service, particularly with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at its center, seems good to me. But when we use our well-rehearsed religiosity to force God out--when Christianity becomes a substitute for Christ--our religion dies and takes us along with it. Meanwhile, God is outside but alive and wild, rousing the rabble.