I’ve had countless conversations with people from a wide variety of worldviews. Through those conversations covering a myriad of topics including God, spirituality, Christians, the Bible, etc. I’ve come to realize that there is (in the minds of most non-Christians I talk to) an inseparability between the concepts of “God” and “religion”.
Big problem. Here’s why.
Most people are open to the idea of God or at least a God. But most people hate and I mean hate religion, religiosity, and religious-acting people. And remember, “God” and “religion” are inextricably intertwined for most “non-religious” people. In other words and to use that age-old adage: If the idea of God is the baby, its being thrown out with the proverbial bath water. Why? Because religious people have come across as religious. As in mindlessly following a dry ritual that leads to nothing more than more ritual. To the mind of someone not inside that worldview, its a complete waste at best and diabolical at worst.
But the non-religious have been by-and-large quite polite about their disdain for the religious. They’ve tucked the religious among them into a box and put one of those “COEXIST” stickers on it.
Here’s the deal. Religion and God were never meant to be put together, let alone conjoined like two babies sharing vital organs. Religion is OUR attempt, OUR faulty efforts to reach a God that has no interest in being reached. This God is in fact the One doing the reaching. This God is the One who has from the very beginning been the initiator of any contact between Creator and Creation. Meanwhile, we’ve constructed this rickety, busted, woefully short, broken ladder in an effort to get to God. That ladder is religion. Religion is man’s attempt to reach God. Grace through Jesus is God’s statement that He’s reaching us.
So, please don’t think I have faith in religion. The word itself is in the Bible only a handful of times and not in the way we currently use it. No, I don’t cling to religion. Religion as a broken ladder could never save me. Ritualistic ruts could never do the trick. I cling to Jesus. Jesus never seemed interested in religion and yet somehow many of His followers have found themselves steeped in it. I don’t go to a particular building on Sundays because I have religion. I go because I have friends there who love Jesus too and some who are searching and I want to encourage anyone I can. I don’t read the Bible because God loves me when I do, I read it because God loves me unconditionally and is speaking through the Bible. I don’t pray because I think I’m better than anyone. I pray because I know I’m a scoundrel in need of a Savior and this Savior has embraced me into a loving relationship with Him. Like any relationship, it grows through constant, authentic communication.
So if you’re not a Christian, please understand that its entirely likely that the Christians you know dislike the connotations of “religion” as much as you do. Please understand that its Jesus we’re after because we found out that He’s after all of us. And we know how much we and the world need His love, forgiveness, and grace.
And if you’re a Christian reading these words, how have you perpetuated the concept that God and religion are inseparable? How can you replace ritual in your life with zeal, with passion, with love, with selflessness that simply loves all people the way Jesus does?