I've been thinking of the words 'religion' and 'religious'. Christianity is often called a religion and Christians are termed 'religious' people. I thought I'd explore.
I've discovered they are very different things, and only one of them in my view is truly applicable to the kind of life Jesus has in mind for us. Only one applies properly to the true nature of Christianity.
The word 'religion' talks about an organised, institutionalised system of religious beliefs.
An organised, institutionalised system?
Did Jesus really come to set up a system, an institution? What did he do with the religious systems around in His time?
He consistently condemned them, called their leaders hypocrites and said that saying the right things and being seen to do the right things, living rigidly according to the laws, being legalistic was not the way of God.
Jesus wasn't about starting a religion. But inspiring and encouraging people to live a new way, God's way. To make their lifestyle, their everyday lives, be pictures and reflections of God. To interact with God, to make our choices and habits ones which reflect God, to make our lives a witness of our devotion, rather than being part of an institution.
You say well didn't He ask Peter to start a church? Yes He did.
But Jesus didn't mean the church to become an institution. He meant for it to be a community of believers, serving each other, supporting each other, praying for each other, and serving the community as a collective and individually. A community where everyone was welcome.
Not an institution. Not at all. That's what man has made it.
I think what 'the church' as those outside of it see it and define it now, has become an institution. Part of the establishment. Part of the accepted order. Near to government. Part of Royalty almost. The Queen is the head of the Church of England even.
Jesus didn't want it to be that. Not at all.
Because when that happens it loses its edge. It loses its radicalism. It loses it power. Its more and more afraid to take risks and take a stand. It gets to stuck down in tradition and legalism. It becomes more a set of rules and regulations, not a living community, not a way of living.
Being a Christian is a way of life, not a religion.
Which brings me nicely to my second word. The word 'religious' means the following three things in the dictionary.
1)Of, relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity
2)Of, relating to, or devoted to religious beliefs or observances
3)Scrupulously and conscientiously faithful
If we talk about being religious with our faith - then that's correct. If we are truly religious Christians we will devote ourselves to God. We will devote ourselves to observing what He says, and His reality, and we will be faithful to this belief. Scrupulously faithful means being faithful to a life of integrity and conscientiously faithful is to be have our lives governed by God's moral codes and values.
Wow. This I can get on board with. Living a life of integrity, according to God's values, devoted to God and listening to what He says. A lifestyle devoted to God.
Being religious, in the truest sense of the word, is a good thing. Its how Jesus wants us to live.
Jesus wants us to religiously follow His way of life, His example, His teaching. If we are truly religious we will be putting it into practice, we will be living out our faith.
Christianity is a way of life, the way God wants us to live and when its done in its truest sense its done religiously.
But that doesn't make following Jesus a religion. Jesus didn't come here to do that, but to institute a new way of living, and to set us free to live it. Religious, not religion. They are two very different things, almost polar opposites.
Lets not get stuck in religion. Lets get religious with our faith instead.