Jefferson Bethke, in Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough, talks about how he came to recognize this his senior year in college while serving as an RA in his dorm. There are some really excellent points here:
So being a follower of Jesus now, and knowing just how gracious he had been to restore me, heal me, and pursue me, I longed so deeply to share his love with these students.
Over and over again, though, I’d get the same response whenever I’d bring up Jesus. Literally, the overall essence of Jesus to these students had been boiled down to whether or not someone could say the f word. Immediately, they’d bring up periphery issues that Jesus barely mentions [great point!!!] as their biggest opposition to him. Ironically, the reasons they opposed Jesus were sometimes the reasons Jesus opposed the religious people of his day. Half the time, they weren’t even rejecting Jesus; the were rejecting what he rejected! [well said!]
So, whose fault is this? Bethke nails it:
It hit me that my friends weren’t the ones to blame for their confusion. They had gotten this idea from people they grew up with, churches they went to as kids, or preachers they saw on TV.
It was the church’s fault that they thought this was what real Christianity was all about. As I’ve heard said, “Of 100 unsaved men, one might read the Bible, but the other 99 will read the Christian.”
My peers couldn’t separate Jesus from religion because they weren’t reading the Bible to learn about Jesus; they were looking to the Christian religion to understand him. What they were rebelling against was religion. …
That’s when I noticed an interesting trend: When I juxtaposed religion and Jesus in my conversations, they took a different turn. It allowed people to pull back a little and see him in a different light. They no longer were just brushing him off, but were actually pursuing, thinking, and investigating the man named Jesus. And that’s when I started to write the poem [which led to this book] “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus.”
(Note: I received a review copy of this book, but I’m blogging this because it’s true and awesome, not because I received a copy in the mail.)