We don’t like to think about this, but it is possible to have a religion that is not healthy. It is possible to have a religion that is, in fact, sick.
A friend and mentor of mine, Dr. Ray Branton, offered a list of eight characteristics of a sick religion, based on a book by Wayne Oates. The characteristics of a sick religion include the following:
(1) It seeks to manage your life for you, instead of helping you take responsibility for yourself. (2) It gives a unique saving power to the leader, instead of the message the leader proclaims.
(3) It offers hope for only a favored few. Everyone else outside of this narrow group is lost. (4) It may call for giving up much or all of your property. (5) It may rely on some miracle as validation of the group.
(6) It claims to know the future. This is usually based on a timetable plotted from the Book of Revelation. (7) It has a clearly defined enemy. When a group is known for what it is against, instead of what it is for, that is a clear warning sign.
(8) It has all the great mysteries of life figured out. Instead of humility, there is arrogance. To this individual or group, God is no longer mysterious. They have everything in life figured out, including God.
Today, there are many spiritual options. Some are good, but some are unhealthy. The Apostle John reminds us, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” (I John 4:1)
May God help us today to be spiritually wise.