Saturday, March 14, 2009

Suffocating Under Religion

I'm continuing my spiritual look at U2's new album, No Line on the Horizon. Today I'm looking at the song, "Breathe." "Breathe" is an amazing song. It is an anti-religious song...and I love that it is! Many will find that statement surprising...especially coming from a preacher! But the fact is, as a preacher my experience is that nothing gets in the way of a relationship with God more than religion...and that is part of what the song "Breathe" is all about.

As many are aware, Bono's mother was Protestant and his father was Catholic. It may be that the "long line of travelling sales people on my mother's side" represent fervently evangelistic zealots who peddle the word of God as though selling used cars. Many people like this also claim to know the precise formula to follow to be blessed of God with health, wealth and prosperity. They tend to load people up with religious burdens which weigh people down with shame and guilt and produce a performance-driven religiosity that bears little resemblance to Biblical Christianity which is a vibrant walk with God through Christ. There is a lot of garbage being put forth in the name of the word of God and we need to have great discernment to see through the "cockatoo." Anytime anyone tries to tell you they've broken down the Christian life to 3 steps or 5 formulas or 7 recipes, run for the hills!! Ultimately only ONE thing is important...trusting in the mercy and grace of God offered in Jesus Christ.

The line: "So why would I invite a complete stranger into my home, Would you?" appears to emphasize the need for the Church to be much more relational in its approach to loving people into the Kingdom. When Bono sings "These days are better than that," I feel its an affirmation that many in the Church are going about ministry in a much better way and many, perhaps Bono himself, are being freed from a performance-driven, recipe-oriented approach to the Christian life...freed from a life of religiosity to pursue a loving, personal relationship with the living God.

The line, "Every day I die again, and again I'm reborn" likely refers to the daily walk of the believer with perfectionism but progress. The life of repentance and faith is the course believers walk. Also, as we learn to deny ourselves and give up our lives for others and for the kingdom, we find our lives, and we are reborn. The Christian life is not religiosity, but dying and rising on a daily basis...putting sin to death and living a new life by the power of the Holy Spirit through the grace of God. The old theologians called this a life of "mortification and vivification."

The lines, "Every day I have to find the courage, To walk out into the street, With arms out" refer to the call of the Christian to get up each day to bring the hope of renewal and recreation into a broken and hurting world. It takes great courage to live this way. To open our arms wide to even our those who rebuff even our attempts at loving. Get your heart stomped on enough, get rejected enough and its easy to want to pull back and say it's not worth the pain. Give us courage, Lord.

Then the lines, "Got a love you can't defeat, Neither down or out, There's nothing you have that I need, I can breathe, Breathe now." Believers have a love that is unable to be defeated...the gates of hell won't prevail against the Church. But believers are also loved infinitely and unendingly by God. Romans 8 speaks of this love. Believers are never down nor out...we may stumble and fall, but the Lord raises us up..every day we die and are reborn. The idea that others have nothing we need may related to those door-to-door evangelists, but we need to be careful here. The Scriptures are clear that every believer DOES need the Church...She is the Mother of our Faith...we need her Worship, her Instruction in the Word, her Sacraments, her Accountability and Authority over us...her Shepherding of us. We don't need religion, but we do need relationship...and relationship in and through the church...good churches, Scriptural Churches, Relevant Churches, Loving Churches, Passionate Churches...but churches nonetheless. But as far as any formula or's true, we need nothing but Christ. We can Breathe because of the Grace of God. We are freed from all the shackles of all the things that others expect of us to be "good Christians."

For too long, even this preacher felt he was drowning below the surface...trying so hard to be spiritual, to be a good beliver, only to see failure and defeat...and to feel the frown of God. I didn't get grace...I didn't hear the sound...and it almost killed my faith. I didn't understand ALL that Jesus had done for me...I said I trusted in Christ and His finished work, but I was really trusting in my own righteousness for my sense of God's delight in me. One day, the Father opened my eyes to grace and the reality of the Work of Christ for me...a funny-looking man in knickers named Francis Schaeffer saved my faith. I almost sense that Bono can relate to my story.

This pastor once suffocated under religion...and now breathes the free air of grace...and is now free to open my arms wide to love a hurting world. "We are people borne of sound, The songs are in our eyes, Gonna wear them like a crown, Walk out, into the sunburst street, Sing your heart out, sing my heart out, I've found grace inside a sound, I found grace, it's all that I found, And I can breathe, Breathe now." Wow, I have so much more to say...but I've gone waaaaay too long already. Blessings!

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