Arrogant Religion or Bold Faith?

Arrogant Religion Bold Faith
Proud, Boastful Humble and Passionate
Self-promoting Wants the best for others
Focuses on being correct Wants people to know God
Confident in having correct beliefs Confident in God’s work in my life and his desire to work in other people’s lives
Confronts what I disagree with Confronts things that hurt people and things that keep them from knowing God’s love.
Focuses on winning arguments even if it hurts others Focuses on relationships and seeking truth together.
Believes I am accepted by God because of my moral superiority and correct beliefs Believes I have right standing with God because of his extreme love and I can never be good enough to deserve such love. Therefore, I freely extend this love to others.


I love saying “Christianity isn’t a religion. It’s a relationship.”

As a matter of fact, it’s my number one religious belief! 8-) 

I was recently challenged with the idea that all religion is about gaining control over a chaotic world. I immediately saw the truth in this for everyone else! I’m not so ready to deal with the truths that this brought up in my own life. Let’s just say that I realize I still have a whole, whole lot of growing to do!

Our religious beliefs, no matter what they are, are very close and personal to us. We all have them even if they are “I don’t believe in religion” and we all protect them. We surround ourselves with people who agree with us and filter out messages that challenge us. To some extent, we have to do this for our own sanity. We have to live our lives with a foundation to make decisions from.

However, it’s important to understand the way religion works and why it feels comfortable to us if we truly want to base our religion on our relationship with Jesus.

Otherwise, we fall into the trap of arrogantly defending our beliefs and traditions and ignoring Jesus’ greater purpose of walking through life boldly with him.

Which brings us (finally) to John 18.

In this chapter, we see a striking contrast between the arrogant religion of Peter and the bold faith of Jesus.

And let me just start with saying, I’m not hating on Peter. He’s actually the MAN. I completely identify with him and his brash self, but at this point in his story, he still had a whole, whole lot of growing to do…

(read the chapter here…)

In this chapter, Jesus gets arrested and things get real.

Jesus finishes praying and Judas leads some soldiers to arrest Jesus*.

Verse 4 says, “Jesus KNOWING all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘who is it you want?’”

Think about that for a minute. We always picture Jesus as this little frail man walking around in a dress teaching with his hand up in ballet poses. But here he goes out and finds the soldiers who are about to arrest him. He’s much more like a Denzel Washington character and less David Schwimmer (Ross from friends) than we usually picture him.

I mean Roman soldiers were the deal. Remember Russell Crowe in the gladiator? That’s the soldiers we are talking about. Even other soldiers wouldn’t have gone up to a group of them and said, “you looking for me?” 

With that in mind, read this scene and notice how Jesus boldly goes to the soldiers. They are so shocked by him that they drew back and fell to the ground. That’s bold!!!

Then, in humility, he makes sure that they arrest only him. He makes them state who they are looking for and tells them to let the disciples go.

At the same time, Peter, in an act of arrogant religious fervor decides that they can take on the Romans and wants to fight, so he cuts off a dude’s ear. (Which was probably not the deadly blow he intended.)

So, the scene is pretty cool and Peter was admirable in his desire to protect Jesus and fight. The original Greek word tells us that he had a little bitty sword. It was quite bold and foolish that he was ready to fight against a trained group of soldiers.

It can be quite hard to tell the difference between arrogant religion and bold faith. Peter’s actions seem heroic and I completely identify. If I were watching this scene in a movie, I’d jump up and yell, “Go Peter!”

The difference is in knowing God. Jesus had just finished telling them his purpose and plan which included him being crucified.

Jesus in bold faith tells Peter to put away his sword. In complete surrender to the Father’s will, Jesus says in verse 11 “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

There is a fine line between arrogant religion and bold faith. I’m pretty sure I dance back and forth over it all the time. One clear measure of which side you are on is how you respond to suffering. Jesus accepted extreme, wrongful suffering because he knew God’s ultimate purpose. He boldly went to his execution because he was confident in God’s love and ultimate purpose in his suffering.

I can’t even remotely approach that kind of bold faith without a whole lot of God working in me. I like easy comfy cushy living!

Then Peter, perhaps still feeling like there was a chance for a fight goes with another disciple into the high priest’s courtyard. A servant girl asks Peter if he is one of Jesus’ followers. Peter, who moments earlier was ready to fight Rome, denies even knowing Jesus. His arrogant religion loses all steam when confronted with the reality and hopelessness of his situation.

Jesus understood things differently. He knew exactly what was going to happen. He had been telling the disciples that he was going to die but they couldn’t accept God’s plan. Jesus remained bold even as he humbly submitted to being arrested and beaten and executed.

When the high priest questioned him, Jesus’ boldness was so offensive that one of the officials slapped him. Everyone was used to people cowering in fear before the high priest. Jesus was bold even after the slap.

He challenged his accusers. “Tell me what I said that is wrong!”

Jesus was speaking truth and religious people didn’t want to hear it. They ferociously guarded their traditions and beliefs and fought fiercely against any challenges to what they felt was right. That is what arrogant religion does.

It is interesting that the religious leaders sent Jesus to Pilate. They claimed that their reason was that they had no right to execute him. When Pilate says basically, “Why should I execute him?” They offered no just reason for execution, they just act insulted by the question, “we wouldn’t have sent him to you if he didn’t need to be executed.”

The religious leaders were not seeking justice or truth. They wanted their way protected. They knew that Jesus didn’t break any laws. They had no case here. They were focused on winning their argument with Jesus and blinded to everything else.

In Jesus’ defense before Pilate, he states the ultimate difference between religious arrogance and bold faith. In verse 36, he says, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

Religious arrogance is about control and setting up a “kingdom” (ministry, program, blog, purpose,…insert your focus) here in this world to receive praise, acceptance, purpose, ease, and control right now.

Jesus’ kingdom is not about those things. His kingdom is about an eternal right relationship with God.

In the final scene of this chapter, Pilate offers to release either Jesus or Barrabbas. Barrabbas was a murderer and rebel. He had probably been arrested for trying to fight Rome. It is no surprise that people caught up in religious arrogance chose Barrabbas over Jesus.


When we read about the religious leaders who persecuted Jesus, it is easy to judge their religious arrogance. They had Jesus right there in front of them and they chose their religion over him.

But these leaders truly sought to follow God. They devoted their lives to studying HIS word. They tried to be extremely moral. AND they went to great lengths to teach others about God. Their whole lives were spent studying, praying, and traveling around to teach. Every harsh thing they did came from a well-intentioned belief that they were helping people know God.

How did they miss Jesus? How did they not recognize God standing before them when their lives were devoted to seeking him?

Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

I think that this verse explains the essence of the problem. The word “fear”** refers to recognizing the enormity and awesomeness of God. It is impossible to dwell on who he is as the creator and ruler of the universe and still be arrogant before him. The more I understand how truly powerful he is, the less ground I have for being arrogant in my slight understanding of him. I no longer “despise wisdom and instruction” or resent anyone who challenges my dearly held beliefs and traditions. I crave the challenge because I want to know more of this mighty God who, for some reason beyond my understanding, loves insignificant little grandma bloggers like me

The more I sit and focus on this, the more transformed I am and another little piece of my arrogant religion slips away…




Additional rants for your reading pleasure:







*Which is a story for another day, but I think he was also arrogantly religious and trying to force Jesus to prove himself and fight or something weird like that. He gave up a lot to follow Jesus around for three years. The other disciples didn’t recognize him as an outsider. It’s not like the 11 disciples were all walking around with halos, saying who is this creepy guy tagging along without the little circle of light over his head?

He fit in. He was one of them. They trusted him to keep their money. He obviously thought Jesus was something special. But, like most people, he wanted Jesus to fulfill his agenda and didn’t want to be changed. We will never know exactly what Judas thought but when he found out that Jesus had been crucified, he tried to give his bribe money back and then he hung himself. These aren’t the actions of a cold-blooded plotter. They are the actions of misguided religious beliefs. He thought he could manipulate God.


** The word FEAR does not refer to living with constant anxiety over messing up and disappointing God thus causing him to squash us like a bug. That’s actually the opposite. That’s a bizarre focus on manipulating God into blessing you through making all of the right decisions. Like God is sitting up in heaven with his Smite-ning rod ready to zap you if you eat at Wendy’s instead of Chick-fil-a cause he is that petty and concerned with the minutiae of your life. It’s actually a twisted way of pridefully making everything about yourself instead of focusing on knowing God. Anyway, I’ve heard stories of people who got caught up in such things… :oops: !

Recognizing who God is should scare the peejeebers out of us. When we recognize how much he loves us on top of this, I believe we have a healthy basis for beginning to understand him.