If you listen long enough to Christians, they will tell you that their faith, their practices, even their lives are in mortal peril because of some evil outside the church* environment. Certainly, those who live outside a church family, reject God and are not surrendered to the Spirit, have and still do persecute Christians. However, the Bible reveals something very interesting.
In the book of Mark, chapter 8, verse 30-32, Jesus told his friends, “It is necessary that the Son of Man (Son of Man is a nickname for the Liberator and Jesus applies it to himself) proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.” He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it.” The Message
It turns out, the most dangerous place for Jesus was among the church folks. In another place, talking to the church folks, he reminds them that they killed the prophets – think messengers – that God sent to them. Sadly, this still happens today. Followers of God sometimes find the church to be a very unsafe place. Why?
Ideally, a church family is a community where people who love God with all their being fellowship, worship, and go out from to lovingly serve their neighbours, city and even the world. Realistically, in that mix there are those who don’t love God with all their being rather they are practicing a religion.
Religion is based on tit-for-tat thinking: I’m good, I go to religious services once a week, I give, etc. therefore God owes me. Owes me blessing, owes me my way, owes me salvation. This way of life – a religious life – has a nasty way of breeding self-righteousness and self-righteous people tend to be harsh, critical, judgmental, and when it gets really bad, destructive.
Fortunately, there is a cure for self-righteousness.
*In the Bible, the church is the people not the building.