Ask me if I'm religious and I'll tell you no.
I am not religious. I have a relationship.
This time of year stirs up all sorts of feelings in people. The 'religious' of all types celebrate their chosen holidays. The 'unreligious' spend time talking about how it's not just a 'religious' holiday to celebrate in the first place. Everyone gets so worked up and busy trying to out-do each other that they miss the point. We miss the point entirely.
You see, the older I am getting, the more I realize that I will NEVER be good enough. I can't be 'religious' enough. Say enough prayers. Do enough good deeds. Give enough money to those in need. No amount of volunteering in the community, singing in the choir, serving in women's missions groups will ever save me. None of that is necessary. (Those types of things often accompany believers actions, but they are not enough on their own).
A long, long time ago. God did away with all of that. He destroyed the law and obligation and salvation by works with one word...Jesus.
Jesus was a man that walked among us. Was tempted just like we are, yet was without sin. Was mocked, scorned, humiliated, but never retaliated. He never tried to get even, he never withheld forgiveness...He never objected. He was obedient to the mission and call He had been given, even to the point of death.
The important thing that we miss most of the time, was the way He chose to live his 33 years on earth. He didn't go around judging and spreading hate. He didn't make decrees or loudly proclaim his hatred of people that were other than himself. He was perfect and holy yet he chose to hang out with people who were full of sin...those that were lost...those that needed Him the most.
I have friends that don't want anything to do with organized religion. They have been turned off to who Jesus is because of the crazy, ridiculous actions we "Christians" sometimes show. I'm afraid to say that oftentimes, the church keeps people away from itself more than anything else.
When the 'un-religious' look at the 'religious', do they see people enslaved to doing the right thing and serving out of an obligation, or do they see people who have been saved and redeemed and want to share that with the world? Do they see us going out of our way to love on those different than ourselves, or do they see us posting facebook statuses and sending email forwards about how wrong some of 'them' are.
The only thing that separates me from someone who is lost is that God has given me His grace. And He wants to give it to each of you, too. You see, on my own, I'm no better than the worst of the worst there is. I will never be able to work my way into being 'good'. I can type on this blog about God's goodness until my fingers fall off, but it's still not enough. If I don't accept the gift God has offered me through the sacrifice of Jesus, I will never be good enough.
For those of you who have never accepted that you need a Savior, I'm here to tell you...you do. For those who think that there's no way that God can forgive them for what they have done in the past...He will. For those that think it doesn't matter because this life is all there is...You're wrong. Look around at the beauty of our world. Think back to when you've seen children being born, when you've seen a stranger selflessly help another, when your kids give you smiles and hugs and light up, the mountaintops covered in snow, the ocean waves at sunset, the millions of amazing animals and wildlife He created.
There IS a God and He wants a relationship with you. Not for you to be religious, to meet some certain set of "acceptable behaviors", or to begin keeping score of those around you that do wrong, but because He loves you. He formed you, created you, and knows all the days of your life. He holds you in His hand and is waiting for you to come to Him. Stop trying to do it all yourself. Stop struggling through thinking you can do everything on your own. God sent his son so that you wouldn't have to. It's time to stop running. It's time to come home to the One that made you, that knows you, and that loves you.
As for me, it would be much easier to not talk about difficult things such as this. It would be easier to blend right in with the rest of the world. To never speak truth and to silently sit by as I watch my lost friend suffer through life without a savior.
But, that's not what Christ died for me to do. We are called to be Salt and Light and to love those around us. I don't plan to preach to you every time I see you and I certainly don't plan to cram my Jesus down your throat. I don't have to do that. You see, by having a relationship with Him, my life has been transformed. And because of the way He is working in my life, I am more free to love those around me. To serve out of gratitude and in hopes of leading others to Him. To accept those that are completely different than I am and have chosen different lifestyles. If I'm living my life as a reflection of the relationship I have with Him, He will speak without me having to say a word.
People are tired of hearing the same old thing we have always said. They're tired of the 'religious' people only spouting judgement and hatred and disdain for their fellow man. They are hungry to SEE radical change in lives. They want to know that we're more than just what we say, but that we have been transformed and that is demonstrated through our actions.
Maybe this next year we can all commit to loving more and speaking less. To accepting more and judging less. To praying more and grumbling less.
God has given me a story and a calling and I want to shepherd it well. What about you?