Brazilians are depressed, says a national weekly newsmagazine. The hope for change in government has crumbled with almost daily revelations of corruption in most of the political parties … and it started with the president’s own party.
The main question is, how much, if at all, has the popular president been involved in the big monthly payments to members of Congress and to the political parties for their campaign funds?
In the midst of all this, one congressman was caught at the airport with suitcases of cash totalling over four million dollars. Worse, he’s a “bishop” in Brazil’s largest Pentecostal church and was boarding a plane owned by the church. The money? From offerings from the church’s followers, say the church’s leaders. Its destination? Probably to pay off debts or buy some big-ticket item. But the cold cash says this deal isn’t exactly above-board.
This is only one in a series of religious scandals in Brazil, and points up what Gallup already said was true of Protestant evangelicalism in the U.S.: religious people, as a rule, live no better moral lives than their non-religious counterparts.
Some will corrupt religion on the premise that “godliness is a means to gain” (1 Timothy 6:3-10). This perspective is nothing new. Nor will it go away anytime soon. When man gets his fingers in it, religion goes awry.
And today’s easy believism has put spiritual commitment in the gutter.
This sad truth gives New Testament Christians a door of opportunity to proclaim some good news.
First, we must ask, How can we restore religion as God meant it to be? Paul dealt with this problem. People were using God’s good servants to further their own agendas and self-interests. His answer: Do not go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:1-6). Be a “strict constructionist.” The Bible’s limits are freedom.
Next, as Paul also dealt with abuses within the church’s worship itself, he went back to what he had “received from the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:23). To correct the bad practices in the Lord’s Supper, Paul went back to its establishment. Back to the beginning. No need for commentary, just the plain word of God. Getting back to the way he established things will fix the problem.
Paul was following Jesus’ example. When things go wrong, how do we fix them? By going back to the beginning. Restore the original. When the Jews plied Jesus with divorce questions, he returned to the way God intended things “from the beginning” (Matthew 19:4,8).
These simple truths are the fix-all to religion gone wrong. In the New Testament, Jesus left us the pattern. One church, one head to one body, many members; simple, spiritual worship; a single task of saving souls; a personal approach to evangelism and building others up; sacrificial service; joy in the Holy Spirit.
Let’s do what God intended for us to do from the beginning. It can be done.
A truth big enough to get a Brazilian out of his depression. Or anybody else tired of corrupt religion.
Our Father in Heaven, may we repudiate religion corrupted by human interests, ideas and desires, in order to practice the faith as the Lord designed it from the beginning, in the simplicity and sincerity of Christ. Amen.
How to restore religion when it’s corrupted? Restore it to its original state, as God intended.