Tainted Love

posted in: Church, Discipleship, Religion | 0

by Chris Surber

GomorrahI was on a long drive recently while thinking about denominations and division in the Church when the song “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell came on. (Ya I get it… I’m a theology nerd stuck on 80’s pop…) I’ve heard those lyrics a thousand times but I heard in a new way. One part of the song goes like this:

“Once I ran to you (I ran). Now I’ll run from you. This tainted love you’ve given. I give you all a boy could give you. Take my tears and that’s not nearly all. Tainted love (oh). Tainted love. Now I know I’ve got to. Run away, I’ve got to. Get away, you don’t really want any more from me. To make things right. You need someone to hold you tight. And you think love is to pray. But I’m sorry, I don’t pray that way.”

There was a time when I loved religion. I once found a great deal of comfort in the sights and smells of religion. I found the charm of incense irresistible. Big steepled church buildings enthralled me for their grandeur and seeming connection with the divine. Formal liturgy once made me feel connected to something bigger than myself. I used to meander into the oldest church buildings I could find to pray and contemplate Christ. My intentions were good but now I don’t pray that way.

I don’t pray in dusty sanctuaries because they feel holy. I still love church history but for different reasons now. I no longer pray as a way of feeling connected to the past but as a way of understanding more fully what God is doing today. Religion of a dry and dusty kind is tainted love. It’s seldom even a vehicle for the living breathing love of Jesus put on display in real terms.

Religion of a light show and smoke filled auditorium isn’t any better. It’s just a new wave of love tainted by the sights and smells of modern culture. Just because you get rid of the pews and the oak pulpit doesn’t mean you got rid of religion. You just changed the methods, but the motivations and means are very likely exactly the same as they’ve always been – getting our way.

In my book, Gomorrah was Religious Too, I wrote, “We have it backwards in the Church today. We venerate the church sanctuary built by human hands while we denigrate the sanctity and the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We rely on our religion rather than His provision. The more modern local church is not less idolatrous in our day. In places where we have traded out stained glass for folding chairs, we elevate the method of ministry over the purpose of ministry. We rejoice over things that are not worthy of rejoicing.”

Religious love is tainted love. If we want to have the power of God in our life in a way that really matters we’ve got to get beyond religion – whether it is of a dusty pipe organ or a contemporary rock variety. Tainted religion is tainted religion. Authenticity doesn’t come from taking off a suit and tie, and reverence to God doesn’t come as a natural result of wearing them.

Religion that pleases God and brings real transformation power into our lives is a matter of the heart. It’s a matter of our heart connecting to God in Christ by faith and to fellow followers of Jesus by the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. Run from religion into the arms of Christ and the fellowship of other followers of Christ.

Spit out the Kool-Aid of tainted religion and get back to those most basic principles of authentic Christianity. Pick up your walking stick, get shoulder to shoulder with some other people whom God has saved by faith in Jesus, and get busy following Him in this tainted world.