Pastor Jeff preached last Sunday on religion. "Religion", as in rules, ritual, "the law". He listed eight rules that are common to all major religions and most minor ones:
1. Don't harm others with word or deed.
2. Honor your parents.
3. Be kind to siblings and the elderly.
4. Be honest in all your dealings.
5. Don't lie.
6. Don't have sex with another person's spouse.
7. Care for those who are weaker.
8. Put others first.
A very interesting list, actually. A couple things I noted about it . . .
- Every item on this list has to do with relationships, our interactions with others. Fascinating that every religion acknowledges that we are social beings and that how we live in society with others is a primary reflection of our "goodness".
- Not only are these rules common to almost all religions, but all of the good, reasonable nonreligious people I know would agree with them as well. Heck, even the naughty, unreasonable nonreligious people agree with them at heart.
- Not a person in the world lives up to this. We all fail. Nobody is "good". We usually try to rationalize our way into believing that we're "good enough", but deep down, most of us are disappointed in ourselves for how selfish we are, how much we hurt others, how miserably we miss the mark.
And, of course, this is where Christianity differs from all other major religions and most minor ones. Instead of offering eternal reward for everyone who manages to be "good enough", Christianity says, "You'll never be good enough." And this is not a statement of hopelessness -- it's a statement of freedom. You are free from the chains of performance anxiety; salvation is a free gift from God, not a prize you earn by good behavior.
Of course, most flavors of Christianity in the world today have missed the mark on that distinction, unfortunately. It's to our shame that the Church is usually the last place a sinner would go when looking for Grace.