I thank God for those Christian fellowships that are not religious!! What?, I hear you say. Isn’t Christianity a religion? Well yes it is according to some definitions but also, and at the same time, it is not.
What do I mean? I mean that the word ‘religion’ often describes a set of cold laws and traditions to which people hold to legalistically and which are used against others who do not conform to their view of things. The truth is, you can be religious about jogging or exercise, or making more and more money or determining to be popular or rejecting any faith in God. In those examples, your religion is all about you at the centre over against others before whom you are trying to be better, louder, more important, more beautiful, more popular or whatever else the world says is a must-have for you to feel fulfilled.
On the other hand, although Christianity is often referred to as a religion and those who are Christian as those who’ve ‘got religion’, that is merely only the beginning of what it is really all about. For Christianity is not about us in the first place, but it is about Jesus. The give-away is the label even we use of ourselves; Christ-ians, followers of Jesus.
The thing is, Christianity is all about relationship with the One who is God-with-us, who instead of giving us screeds of rules and regulations to follow (although there are certainly some by which we must abide), invites us to belong to Him by faith through the extension of His undeserved grace. In other words, being a Christian is all about our relationship with the One who alone can give us life and that eternal; the One who gives us hope in a hope-less world, joy in a joy-less place and peace where there only ever seems to be conflict and/or war.
Eugene Peterson once said about this very thing;
“Outsiders…conclude that there is nothing to the religion business except perhaps, business – and dishonest business at that. Insiders see it differently. Just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners. Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It’s similar with sinners outside the church.
So Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behaviour. They are, rather, places where human misbehaviour is brought out in the open, faced and dealt with.”
In other words, they are places where lives are lived under the grace and forgiveness of God all made possible because He first loved us, called us to His side, and died in our place on the Cross to be raised again on the third day. Christians are merely folks who understand who they really were once (Eph 2:1-9) and are now who they are in Christ (John 10:9) from which they worship Jesus with love, gratitude and a desire to forever do His will.
As John Newton understood,
Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see