Saturday, February 2, 2013

Religion vs. Authenticity

It's been a crazy busy week so I've had to let the blog take a backseat. There has been one post, though, that I've been wanting to write and since I have a few moments tonight, I wanted to share. Warning: it may ruffle some readers' feathers. No apologies intended...just a friendly warning. I hesitate calling it a "religious" post but you'll understand my hesitation in a moment. :-)

You surely have noticed here in 2013 how polarized our country is. Evidence of this lies right there within our government. It's so split and muddied up that they can't agree on anything. Out here in the real world, Facebook is apparently king and many people jump on their soapbox and preach whatever it is they feel strongly about. Common themes today are healthcare, gay marriage, war vs no war, gun control, etc. Everyone is apparently an expert on whatever topic they choose to opine about. When it's all said and done, we all put one leg into a pair of pants followed by the other, we sleep, we eat, we breathe...all commonalities amongst our race of humans. Once that heart inside stops beating, we all end up 6' under, in an urn, or spread on some far off or nearby beach. Our origin is also the same as is our ending. One determined and successful sperm + one egg = us. So somewhere in the middle, we find ourselves living our lives. Some of us "live for today," some of us "live IN yesterday," and many others live to live another day. Most are selfish, some are selfless, and most are plugged in, ready to grab the latest app update just as soon as it's ready to download. Whole entire conversations never have a word spoken. Instead, we see faces down, thumbs texting, and the art of communication dumbed down to a mutated form of "communication"...which is hardly real communication at all. Gotta have it, have it now, and gotta get more of it.

As a Christian, I was raised within the Baptist church. That Baptist church was located within a nearly 100% caucasian neighborhood town. There was one African-American family in town when I was in grade school but they quickly moved away. In that church and while being raised, I learned "religion". A common question was "What religion are you?" I'm Baptist....or, I'm Catholic. Most had an answer. Within these "religions," there were ways of doing things, ways of singing, ways to pray "properly," how much to give monetarily on Sunday, and certain "views" of others who didn't necessarily agree with our views. Today, I define religion as this: "a set of rules developed by man and not by God in order to properly have church and worship as a local body." (my definition and mine alone) I suggest that these rules are set by interpretation of the Scriptures and different versions of Scripture. Depending on the version and who "founded" the particular religion determines the rules. There are so many religions today and even ones that are called nearly the exact same name yet differ drastically from each other in fundamental beliefs, like gay marriage, for example. It's amazing.

So now to where I'm going here: I (hate) religion. I put the word (hate) in parenthesis because it's such a strong word and one I really try not to use too often. I will leave it up to you to insert your own word. Other words like "despise" and "strongly dislike" come to mind. Why? It's simple, actually. I believe more than Jesus Christ being a "good man." I literally believe that He actually died and rose again. I believe He literally took on my sins and yours and washed them away. Whether or not you believe as I do, I hope you will read further. Christ led a perfect life. He didn't live to a set of rules. When some of the most famous Bible stories are told of such things like miracles, nearly always, Christ broke the ethnic and cultural barriers to prove a point. He chose prostitutes, tax collectors, and crooks instead of the well-to-do and culturally acceptable. As I live, I believe that I am to live as much like Christ as possible. He's the shining example of what I should pursue. "Christlikeness" is a common term thrown around but when taken to heart, what does it look like today?

For one, it's a selflessness like none other. It's putting others' needs in front of our own. It's not living according to some religion's set of rules as to who we should/can associate with. It's not praying a certain way because everyone else does.

We MUST come to know the true character of who He is.
"Abba, Father."

Let that soak in just a second. Father. The "ultimate" Father at that. Get this...this is a guy who took nails in a human body because He loves us. He could've ended it at any time but CHOSE not to. Even more, God the Father sent His SON as a living sacrifice. That always blows my mind away. What would I say if I was asked to sacrifice my own child so that another may live? I will admit that I would not be willing in any way to do any such thing! Selfish? Sure it is when you compare it to the cross. Even trying to comprehend how much He loves us is nearly impossible...yet people trash Him so heavily.

So as I walk my daily walk, I do my very best to be transparent. This blog is one way to doing that. I am not someone who is a Bible-thumper and goes out to the local street corner preaching or putting it in others' faces. I wholly believe that is NOT what Christ did. He lived a sinless, perfect life FOR OTHERS TO WITNESS. He walked the walk and was the prime example of what is means to live and live in such a way as to bless others. Back to me: I don't stay away from folks who don't believe as I do. I don't seek them out, either. I simply am who I am and should I cross your path, then I will do my humanly best to treat you authentically and respectfully. Do I always succeed? Nope. I certainly fail. Everyone does. Some people screw up ROYALLY but still, it changes nothing. It's not always pleasant and easy to do this and it's something I need to work on but I'm trying. Instead of gossiping about others, pointing fingers, turning our noses up at them, how about we do like Christ did and treat them with respect, love, and acceptance. That reminds me: acceptance. This is such a sore spot nowadays.

I do not have to accept what you believe in order to accept YOU.

Oh, the horrible litmus test of "If you don't believe as I do, then you're the devil!!!!" Well, that's a "bit" drastic but dead on in many cases. I've lost count as to how many have blasted me for not believing as they do. In today's 21st century world, that's better known as a short spat on Facebook followed by being unfriended. Good grief! What's really sad is that is now resulting in me not participating in races that I love because I am no longer welcome there. The absolute TRUTH is that yea, I may not agree with you...I don't have to, but I don't reject you! I embrace your friendship! Unfortunately, that's all-too-often not the case and off they go...for good.

So in the end, Christ is my example. His footsteps are the ones I want to walk in. I'll never fit into His shoes but I will try for as long as I breathe air. Sacrificial love of my wife and my children, serving others, and living a transparent, Christ-centered life for others to see and thereby accept...or not. Either way, I choose to accept them. Sometimes, it will feel impossible to do so but I'll just keep plugging along, doing my best.

You see...Christ was there for me at the lowest of lows...when I had no further left to fall. That time was not too far in the distant past, either. Yet, He was there and I am breathing at this moment because of Him. I will never, ever forget His grace for me and so there you see, if He can do that for me.....ME....then how can I possibly be bound by any set of rules other than living as close to how He lived and live to honor Him in all I do?  I simply know no other way.

1 comment:

Mike W. said...

Great Post. I agree with pretty much everything you said and have often asked at the church that I go to about what do you think Jesus would do or say, be it with the gay issue, baptism, etc....

I think Jesus can't be but sad over what we have done in the name of a religion supposedly representing him.