The theme of the video revolves around "the difference between Jesus and false religion." Underneath his video, Bethke delineated its purpose:
A poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion. In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At its core Jesus' gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man-centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair. Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can't do your own list of rules and feel not good enough for God. With Jesus, though, you have humble confident joy because He represents you, you don't represent yourself and His sacrifice is perfect, putting us in perfect standing with God!
—Jefferson Bethke, Crosswalk.com (2012)
Jefferson Bethke repudiated those who used his video to criticize the Church, stating "The Church is His vehicle to reach a lost world. A hospital for sinners. Saying you love Jesus but hate the Church, is like a fiancé saying he loves his future bride, but hates her kids." Nevertheless, the author of the video stated that he wanted to expose the legalism prevalent in many houses of worship. The popular rapper Lecrae, on his Facebook, encouraged his fans to think about the video by linking an article titled "Does Jesus hate religion? Kinda, sorta, not really" by Kevin DeYoung who had, since writing it, spoken with Jefferson Bethke about it and the video.
The four minute video had received 6 million views three days after its release on 10 January 2012, as well as 64,000 comments. By Saturday, 14 January 2012, the clip received 10.2 million views and over 100,000 comments. By 18 January 2012, the video received 14 million views, and by 23 January, the video was viewed over 16 million times. Jefferson Betheke's video "Counterfeit Gods" is another one of his most popular works, receiving more than 700,000 views.
^Ravelle Mohammed. "'Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus' Viral Video Sparks Faith Debate". The Christian Post. Retrieved 13 January 2012. "“The Church is Jesus' bride so be careful how you speak of His wife,” he stated. “If a normal dude has right to get pissed when you bash His wife, it makes me tremble to think how great the weight is when we do it to Jesus' wife. The church is His vehicle to reach a lost word. A hospital for sinners. Saying you love Jesus but hate the Church, is like a fiancé saying he loves his future bride, but hates her kids. We are all under grace. Look to him.”"
^"Poet on "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus"". CBS News. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2012. "A video poem posted on YouTube by Seattle 22-year-old Jefferson Bethke about religion and Jesus has been viewed over 16 million times. Bethke and CBS News faith and religion contributor Father Beck discuss the video."