Updated: Dec 11, 2021
Way back in the 80's R.E.M. put out a song by this name, at the time, it was punchy, controversial and prophetic. Whether they would agree with the song being prophetic or not is irrelevant to me. To me it was, and to me it became one of those songs that always seemed to find its way back into my playlist.
Today, though, it feels like this song has become an anthem to my soul and I've been asking myself 'have I lost my religion?' In the 80's, it would mean that I was no longer identifying as a Christian! Today, though, it means that I have discovered something new that religion was just a pale reflection of.
Going back 2000 years I wonder if this was the song in Jesus' heart too. He was born into a religious world where everything was highly controlled. There were laws upon laws for keeping the Law of Moses. Then was the Roman occupation of Israel that had the whole nation verging on revolution at any given time.
When I think about Jesus I see a man who was unwilling to compromise on who he was at the expense of what religion or culture determined he needed to be. In Matthew 3:17, the Father introduces Jesus to the world as 'beloved'. He was love in the flesh. In being himself he introduced us to a love that religion could not compete with. In fact, as he manifested this love more and more people were drawn to him. By the end of Jesus' life even the Pharisees were convinced that there was nothing they could do to stop him. In all of this love he could barely find time for himself and would be constantly looking for moments to withdraw and spend time with his Father, the source of all love. Jesus knew that for religion to be lost in needed to be replaced with an encounter that would never be lost.
Here's a thought on how this actually played out... In Matthew 12 Jesus was walking through a grain field with his disciples. They were hungry and so they started picking the wheat and eating it. Ordinarily this wouldn't have been as issue. The problem though was that it was the Sabbath. Picking wheat was deemed work and thus the disciples had just broken the law and sinned. This gave birth to a conversation that was intended to bring condemnation on Jesus and his disciples. The pharisees were watching for a law to be broken. It seemed they had their moment and Jesus was caught in their trap.
It has always amazed me that religion seems to be one constant trap after another. I've grown up believing that I needed to be very careful where I stepped to ensure that I avoided any and every sin that would seek to trap me... When did we get so deceived to believe that Jesus' great sacrifice was not really powerful enough to deal with every sin??? Anyway... back to the story...
Jesus then decides to give the pharisees a bible study. He invites them to remember a story that they would well know of when David and his men were hungry. They broke the law by eating the sacred loaves that were on the altar. He then took them further back to the Books of Moses and invited them to see that God allowed the priests to work and eat on the Sabbath. He wasn't condemning them, he was simply illustrating the intent behind the actions of David and also God. He invited them into a conversation, but the problem was that religion's vocabulary seemed to revolve around condemnation and fear, and not love.
So what was Jesus doing?... he was losing religion... and he was helping them see what friendship with God looked like. He wasn't dismissing the past. He was simply using the stories of those in the past to show what life looked like through the lens of God. The disciples seemed to be getting on board with this and were enjoying this new found freedom. The Pharisees, though, were losing their control... you can probably see where I'm going with this.
The further I go in understanding Jesus and his great love, the more I see of the freedom that we were designed to live from. It was never designed to be based in the laws of man, but rather in the love of God. Anyone who has experienced love knows the freedom that manifests itself in those moments. That feeling is a design feature. We are designed for that feeling to be a regular and essential part of our daily lives. Eden didn't start with the Law of Moses or the 10 Commandments. It starts with the original plan and that was to be in relationship with God and with each other.
So, today, I've not lost my faith, I'm simply losing my religion.