Michael and I have pretty strong convictions about not just hanging out with other believers. We are pretty passionate about being missional in current social circles of life. Jesus didn’t just hang with his disciple dudes.
We spend a fair amount of time with our Crossfit community friends. Recently, and on more than one occasion, someone has said something along the lines of “Don’t do that in front of Becca, she’s religious,” or “Becca’s good people, she’s religious.” While I love the people who say these things with the best intentions, hearing that word RELIGION seriously makes me vomit in my mouth a little bit. We were the other night with some friends who said this to me, and while, bless their hearts, they meant well, I just straight up said “I am not religious. Please don’t say that. I just love Jesus.”
There’s a common misconception among people who are unchurched/non-believers/not religious that people ‘like me’ who go to church, pray, writing —>this<— blog, etc. somehow puts one on a pedestal above others. I fear people who don’t know me and/or other true believers and my honest heart motives assume that I am judging them. Sadly, it’s actually the church and RELIGION that has created this negative gap between people who know and love Jesus and people who don’t.
It all really boils down to simply loving Jesus.
Religion binds you to a set of do’s and don’ts, makes you feel like you have to earn approval from God and man by doing ‘good’, and makes you feel like you have the right to judge others who are not like you. Religion has nothing to do with love an everything to do with fear. And not the holy fear of God but the fear of man. My bestie told me this and seemed so fitting:
Religion is man’s attempt to get God but Christianity is God reaching out for man through relationship.
The beauty of loving Jesus is that you never have to fear anything other than your Creator. Fearing Him and only Him, binds you in love so that nothing else matters. I have a degree in education. One of my most brilliant professors in college spent a whole semester telling us “Get those children to fall in love with you first! When you love someone, you will do anything for them.” Isn’t that also true in your marriage or with your own children? So why is that not true in
RELIGION? God loved us– you & me, the foul-mouthed, the promiscuous, the gossiping, the drunks, and even the strippers— so much. He created us, then sent His son to die for us. Knowing that we would do all these awful things to break his heart, He still gave the ultimate sacrifice. All He wants in return is for us to love Him for it. Grace takes care of the rest. Because of GRACE that bottle of whiskey you drank last night, that guy you slept with who wasn’t your husband, that F-bomb you dropped 37 times– none of that matters. He knew we would ALL be awful sinners. Every single one of us. But Jesus died on the cross to pay for all of those things. Without the one single act of LOVE on the cross, we would all have to earn our way back to God through religion. But because of LOVE and GRACE, we don’t have to be RELIGIOUS.
Because I love Jesus first, it makes me want to obey His commandments. But I know I am not perfect and I rest in the fact that He loves me even when I daily break those commandments. Yes, daily.
Because I love Jesus first, I have a desire in my heart to love all of his people. Not just the ones who are like me or who I think are ‘good enough’.
Because I love Jesus first, I have a desire to show others how to love Him. The ugly, the broken, and the F-bombers all are capable of loving and being loved.
In doing a little research to better explain myself, I came across this excerpt from Tim Keller’s book Gospel in Life Study Guide: Grace Changes Everything. It contrasts between ‘religion’ and true gospel and grace on several common themes we humans deal with.
Religion: “I obey, therefore I’m accepted.”
Gospel: “I’m accepted; therefore I obey.”
Religion: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
Gospel: Motivation is based on grateful joy.
Religion: I obey God in order to get things from God.
Gospel: I obey God to get God– the delight in and resemble him.
Religion: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work, or how moral I am. So I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral.
Gospel: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for me. I am saved by sheer grace and I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. It is only by grace I am what I am.
So pardon me if I correct you when you think you’re complimenting me by saying I’m religious. I really just love Jesus.