A couple of days ago I wrote that: “Christianity is not a religion (although it CAN be made into one).” Today’s thoughts are a follow-up to that thought.
I cannot emphasize enough, the importance that Christian faith is not a religion. It was never set up to be a religion – it was set up to deliver us from religion.
That’s because the basis for all religion is to find ways that human beings can make their way to God – OR ways to get God to like us and grant us His divine favors. The basis of all religion is human effort – what human beings DO in reference to God.
Now, this is fairly easy to see when we talk about Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Islam – whose focus is all upon certain things that must be done (or not done), certain ways in which one must behave, certain prayers or rituals that must be prayed and observed – and woe to the one who refuses to honor god in these ways. It is all performance… and then persistent patience – in waiting upon god to do something for you.
And if god doesn’t do His part, then your part must not have been done right… or with enough passion… or with enough endurance… or with enough faith… SO, do it all over again. This time, put more effort into it. Get it right. Get it better. Get it perfect. Because if you do, it will be worth it – you will gain god’s great rewards for being so faithful and devoted to him.
This “formula” can go to great lengths. During the Islamic festival of Ashura, young men severely cut their own backs to prove to Allah that are willing to suffer any pain for him. I also recall the account of one “faithful soul” who made a pilgrimage of hundreds of miles by rolling all the way there. I’m sure you have heard other stories of people who “proved” their devotion to god by performing outrageous acts of sacrifice, suffering, or “servitude.”
All this is not to point out how silly or ignorant the “religious” can be. It is not to make fun of them. It is to point out that the nature of religion is to demand supreme effort from us – in the hopes of gaining the attention of a god that has virtually nothing to do with anyone who is not really serious about their faith.
Of course, this kind of nonsense doesn’t happen in Christianity, right?
If we really think about it, we often feel inward pressure to be “good Christians.” We find ourselves looking to obey the “gospel” of more or less. More faith. More Bible reading. More prayer. More church attendance. More witnessing. And less worrying. Less anger. Less sinful thoughts. Less wanton pleasures. Less time wasted on “unspiritual” things, and on and on. “More or less”… is all about human effort!
And as for outward pressure… those who are struggling in the faith tend to get a heapin’ helpin’ of guilt for their lack of success. Or if they don’t “pick up the pace” in their walk with God, they’re just gonna have to be left behind. No one has the time for slackers or screw-ups.
But the Church for which Jesus died, is different. It understands that we did nothing to ever earn the love of God – and there is nothing we can do to keep earning His love. Because His love is a gift – it is never earned. God is not going to love us more if we live perfect days. And He is not going to love us less if we sin every five minutes.
That is the basis of Christianity… our relationship with God. And that relationship is based solely on His love. Never-failing, never-conditional, never-deserved love. Which He proved in perpetuity when He gave His Son for every sinner in this world.
True Christianity is not form and rituals, it is not church attendance or good morals. There is NOTHING wrong with those things – as long as we understand that nothing we do (or not do) has any bearing up how God sees us – or how He loves us.
So how do true Christians live? In thankfulness. Every day. In every circumstance. Living a life of gratitude with everything we do and say.
True Christianity is not a religion – it is a life-long response to the God Who loves us so much, that He chose rather to die than live without us.