My secondary school teacher once said that being religious is different from being godly. There were two old women, she said, going to Catholic church, a little boy stumbled down and accidentally pushed the religious woman who was aiming to dip her finger into the holy water. Because of interrupting the religious woman cursed the boy. The godly woman in the other hand, helped the little boy to stand up before entering the church.
Dictionary defines religion as a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. Yes, it sounds Christianity but Christianity is much more than set of rules and beliefs used to worship God. I have been hurt by religious people masquerading as Christians. I have been disappointed by religious people who claim that their religion is the only religion acceptable to God so they hate those who have dissimilar beliefs. Religion teaches indifference. Jesus teaches love. Religion is man centered. Jesus is God-centered. Religion is fueled by fear and punishment. Jesus is fueled by love and mercy. Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is about Jesus who loves us with everlasting love and wants to be our father and friend, our Lord and savior. Christianity is a relationship with Jesus. I am not religious and there are three reasons why.
1. I go to church not because it is compulsory.
The main reason why I regularly attend church every Friday (Friday is the rest day here in the desert instead of Sunday) is because I want to feel the presence of God and in His presence I feel most elated and content. Nothing in this world can give me such delight and satisfaction. Winning in a contest or successful career or having a beautiful face can’t offer infinite mirth that I can only feel in the presence of the Lord. A father’s presence overwhelms his child. His embrace warms his child. His promises give hope and courage to his child and his love keeps his child alive. I am a child of God and He is my father for eternity.
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” -John 1:12-13 NLT
Worshiping God is not an obligation for me. It’s my happiness. Listening to His words is not a law for me that needs to be obeyed. It’s my life. Going to church for me is not merely a commandment that can’t be broken or a religious ritual that must be done. I am not driven by rules and laws of religion. I am driven by my love for God who loves me more than I love myself. Attending church services can make us religious but having a relationship with the Lord is what makes us a Christian.
2. I want to be a good person not because I want to be saved from hell.
Being a good person will not save you from eternal punishment because each of us has committed sins. Nobody can boast that he or she didn’t or will not ever commit sins. “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” -1 John 1:8 NLT. But because of Jesus our sins are forgiven if we have accepted Him as our Lord and savior. Doing good deeds does not save us from hell but Jesus does. Salvation is not by works. It is by grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” –Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
Given that I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior, it doesn’t mean that I have a license to sin. God calls His children to be like Him, righteous and blameless. As children of the Lord, we should resemble Jesus. I want to be a good person not because I’m terrified of going to hell but because Jesus Christ bought me with His blood. He was hanged in the cross instead of me. He was cursed and punished instead of me. He paid the price that I should pay. He did it all because He loves humanity.
“Christ bought us with His blood and made us free from the Law. In that way, the Law could not punish us. Christ did this by carrying the load and by being punished instead of us. It is written, “Anyone who hangs on a cross is hated and punished.” Because of the price Christ Jesus paid, the good things that came to Abraham might come to the people who are not Jews. And by putting our trust in Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit He has promised.” –Galatians 3:13-15 (NLV)
He loves us that He gave up His life for us. No other person can do that except Jesus. His kindness leads us to repentance. I am not compelled by religion but I am captured by His love. I am not saying that I am faultless but His grace is sufficient for me. Being a good person can make us religious but having a relationship with Jesus is what makes us a Christian.
3. I read the Bible not because church tells me to.
Religion encourages us to read the Bible even without understanding its context. Religion tells us to memorize and recite prayers repeatedly even without emotion. Religion obliges us to do religious things even without love. I read the Bible because it is where I find wisdom. Religion obliges us to read the Bible but having a relationship with Jesus opens our hearts and mind to comprehend His words written in the holy book. Reading the Bible can make us religious but having a relationship with Jesus is what makes us a Christian.
Like parents and their children, husband and wife, friends and their friends, there is no relationship without love that binds them together. I am not religious and because of Jesus’ love for me I have known love.