Boston.com posted this piece about a small group of Filipinos who nail themselves to a cross in an annual rite celebrating Good Friday. The image and the story were so troubling that I needed some time to let it all sink in.
After some reflection two things remain clear:
1) Religion has no bounds. People will do anything to earn the favor of God.
2) Religion is useless in changing the human heart. Consider this statement from one of the devotees:
Mary Jane Mamangon, a 34-year-old rice cake vendor, was the lone female devotee to be nailed to a cross this year in San Juan village. It was her 14th time.
She said she started when she was 18 and has taken part in the annual rites on and off to seek God's help in saving her ill grandmother and now her younger sister, who is suffering from cancer.
"I do it because I have seen that it works," she told The Associated Press. "I saw how my grandmother recovered from her illness."
Mamangon said she has faith that God will take care of her and her family.
"I do it because I have seen that it works." Works? For what? "I saw how my grandmother recovered from her illness." What place does God truly have in her heart? His only place is as a provider of what she truly values. This is the religious heart and it is a heart unchanged - still consumed with the created things rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).
The Gospel is different.
I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44.22, emphasis mine)
For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7.18–19)
No One Thanks a Vending Machine