Leave Your Religion Behind

(Part Ten in the Disciples Series. Click the Disciples link on the sidebar to begin at the introduction called Different Strokes.)

Thaddaeus ran a palm across the smooth, folded, fabric and pressed it deeper into the box. With a sigh, he closed the lid. There. It was done. It was over. He had made his choice. There would be a great price to pay, but it no longer mattered.

His mother appeared in the doorway, wiping her eyes. "Oh, my son, my son! How you have disgraced this family! Your father can hardly hold his head up in the temple. All your studies, all your connections...our reputation...How can you just throw it all away to run off with that renegade Nazarene?" She threw her apron over her head and burst into sobs.

Thaddaeus felt his lips tightened as he stood. His simple robe fell around his ankles and he caught his reflection in the looking glass. Thaddaeus, the exaulted Pharisee, was now Thaddaeus, the common peasant.


"Don't 'mother' me! All my dreams--gone. My son, a noble Pharisee, God's elect. Was that too much to ask? How can you turn your back on Yahweh? You, a keeper of the law since you were born. All for nothing! Chasing that...that...carpenter!" More sobs.

Thaddaeus shook his head and squeezed past her heaving shape. He planted a kiss on the top of her head and grabbed his money belt. This new robe, made of cheap cloth, felt light and airy compared to the ornate robe he was used to wearing.

How proud he had been when he was accepted as a Pharisee in good standing. He had held himself with that aloof stance that characterized a good law-keeper. He had enjoyed the envious stares of the rabble and the public admiration he earned everywhere he went. How he had loved being religious!

He stepped outside into the cool Galilean morning and took a deep breath. This morning marked an ending and a beginning. He was no longer Judas Thaddaeus, of the court of the Pharisees. From now on, he would be simply Judas Thaddaeus, follower of Christ.

Coming to Christ means we leave religion behind.

That's a tough concept for a lot of people to accept. It certainly was for the Pharisees. They were used to rules, rules, and more rules. As long as there were rules, they had a standard by which to measure their own performance. And as long as they looked good to everyone else, they assumed they looked good to God.

That fantasy was shattered when Jesus of Nazareth walked into town. He did not come to do away with holiness, but to define it correctly. Religion can never please God. He hates the pomp, the men-pleasing, and the self-gratification sought by the outwardly religious.

Coming to Christ means
we abandon our best efforts to impress God.

We acknowledge that nothing we do will ever come close to it. We take off our arrogant outward show of religiosity and put on the humble character of Christ, following him wherever he takes us.

Are you still wearing your Pharisaical robes? Do you still entertain the hope that all your good deeds will earn you God's favor? Or do you claim to follow Christ while clinging to your favorite set of man-made rules?

Become like Thaddaeus. Set it aside and open your heart to the Son of God who promises to exchange all that arrogance for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

You will never miss those ornate robes when you wear the light, airy gift of God's presence.

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