A place for the non-religious
“I’m not religious, I just love the Lord” Scott Wesley Brown, 2004
My wife and I were on a jam-packed flight back to Denver and the gal sitting in between us started talking about her work, her family and then matters of faith. She relayed (with great excitement) how her life had been turning around and she was wondering where it was all heading… But she was struggling with going forward because of her husband’s perception of “religious people” at church. He felt religious people were mean, judgmental hypocrites.
Interesting how the word “religious” has changed in meaning over the years…
About 100 years ago
To be “religious” meant you were devoted, focused and of good character. As one author explained, “he was an essentially religious person which is to say he was always possessed of an irrepressible sense of wonder at and passion for ultimate reality.” Dennis McInerny
Wow, that’s pretty awesome!
Rewind 2k years ago to the days of Jesus
The religious people like the Pharisees were considered heroes. They had guarded and protected God’s Word with purity of devotion for about 200 years. Pharisees came primarily from the Middle Class and were born out of a battle against corrupting educational forces:
The Pharisees . . . wished to embrace the whole people, and in particular through education. It was their desire and intention that everyone in Israel achieve holiness through the study of the Torah . . . (cited p. 93, The Maccabees)
However, in a short period of time the Pharisees had become corrupt themselves. Paraphrasing what Jesus said in Luke 12 “Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast, Pharisee phoniness. You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known.” Message Version
Check out Ephesians 5:6 “Don’t let yourselves get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with him. Don’t even hang around people like that.” Message Version
Fast forward to present
The term “religious” has primarily negative connotations. Ask anyone and you’ll hear things like phony, bigoted, uncaring, hypocritical, uptight, political agendas, majoring on minor issues, etc.
So why would anyone want to claim the label religious? It’s not a hill (or word) we should be willing to die on.
How about simply calling ourselves followers of Jesus? And how about proactively making it all about what Jesus cares about – loving God and loving people? We get to join Jesus in bringing freedom to captives, hope to the hopeless and mercy to the undeserving. After all, that’s who we are and what we’re experiencing!
Galatians 5:4 says “…When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.”
Our new friend on the flight was blown away that you could attend a worship service with friends and drink Starbucks at the same time — maybe a place her “husband could come and explore relationship with Jesus…”