The other day I was coming home from a meeting with a dear friend and listening to Handel’s MESSIAH on my car stereo. My collar was pulled up around my scarf and one of my beautiful Ecuadorian Quechua toques (that’s Canadian for woolen knit cap) was pulled down over my ears and almost over my eyes.
I memorized MESSIAH as a child–we listened to it often, and it is still one of my all-time favourite works of any genre. But as with many other things we know well, I have not always paid careful attention to the text. I can still learn something when I hear it.
Which is why I nearly whacked myself on the head in heavy traffic.
The soprano (Felicity Lott, in this case) was singing about the message the shepherds received from the angel there on the Judean hillside, and the words of Luke 2.11 hit me like a bus:
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
“That’s it!” I nearly screamed to nobody in particular. I caught my hand in mid-whack, just before it did me serious injury.
“There’s no Saviour!”
Under all those hand-knit llamas I had an Aha! moment.
Now I actually understand my last blog post, the one about bad news. The bad news about religion–any religion–is that it provides no saviour! Oh, it outlines a way to salvation, but a way to salvation and a saviour are two very different things. Listen to what the Bible says about the “way to salvation” concocted by the founders of the world’s religions, under the direction of “the god of this world”:
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death (Proverbs 16.25)…All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53.6)…Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7.13,14)
Because it can provide no Saviour, religion proposes a way to salvation. People either can’t decide which way to take, or they blaze their own trail, or they simply follow the crowds because it’s all they know to do.
But religion enslaves people. Religion controls and confuses people. It terrifies them. And eventually it destroys them.
Satan spent the Old Testament trying to prevent the coming of the Saviour, then worked hard to eliminate Him once He came. He isn’t concerned about all those presumed ways to salvation–after all, he invented them. He knows he is doomed to eternal fire, and wants to take as many people with him as he can. If they are on some religious road, and he doesn’t care which one, he knows he has them.
It’s the Saviour who terrifies him. And it’s the Saviour who said. “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14.6, ESV)
So if you’re one of those who thrives on bad news, here it is. Religion, because it can provide no saviour for you, leaves you to be your own saviour. As if you could.
Bad news doesn’t get any badder than that.
Image of MESSIAH manuscripts is from the British Library.