What comes to mind when you hear the word “religion”? What about the word “Christianity”? For some of us, the two brands are mutually exclusive. For others, they are one and the same. Our upbringings, personal experiences, and even the media shape our perceptions of religion and Christianity. Too often, the picture doesn’t tell a very good story.

Perhaps the root to religion’s—any religion’s—branding problem lies in its practice. Think of any world religion. Does this sound familiar?

Sacred places are built for sacred men to interpret sacred texts as rules ­for sincere followers to live by. 

This is what I call the Temple Model—a template for religion. Fueled by fear and superstition, religious rules and rituals work their way into the consciences of the well-meaning, thus shaping attitudes and driving behavior. And when groups of people become misguided, religion becomes dangerous. Evidence of this is found throughout human history.

But when Jesus showed up on the planet, he launched something entirely brand-new—a new arrangement between God and man.

Instead of a place, Jesus established a movement for all people and all nations, for all time—a movement where love replaces law-keeping. In this movement loving God is supreme, as demonstrated by how well we love others—all others. Jesus eliminated the Temple Model when he declared human beings the only remaining temples and rendered the dirt beneath our feet the most sacred of places. This new ethic compels us to treat others as sacred, just as we are sacred. It’s the brand-new filter through which decisions are made and scripture is applied.

Yet we still see the Temple Model in action today. How could something so clear become so complicated? Turns out, there’s a little Temple Model thinking in all of us. What we fear, what we see as sin, and what we think God condemns has been taught in such a way that our consciences have been shaped by it. Consequently, we continue to hold onto things that hold us back and hold the Church back. And when that happens, love is lost.

Imagine if we were free from Temple Model thinking. Imagine a world where every Jesus follower woke up to the peace of knowing that, God is fine with me. And now I need to figure out a way to be fine with other people, so they can be fine with our father in heaven. What if God’s love for us and for those around us began to inform our consciences and behaviors?

When that happens, then and not until then, will Christianity carry the brand Jesus intended. They will know us by our love.

It’s your move.