Unfortunately, a person’s motives and intentions can be misinterpreted. Without accurate information about what drives someone and the desired outcomes of their words and actions, something very positive can be perceived as extremely negative. And even when there is clear understanding, differing values and beliefs often result in completely different perspectives on issues and approaches. Consider the following:
- Someone who is careful could be viewed as anxious.
- Someone who is meticulous could be viewed as picky.
- Someone who is disciplined could be viewed as obsessed.
- Someone who is principled could be viewed as unyielding.
- Someone who is enthusiastic could be viewed as impulsive.
- Someone who is committed could be viewed as fanatical.
- Someone who is traditional could be viewed as legalistic.
- Someone who is passionate could be viewed as overbearing.
With those thoughts in mind, there is one word in particular I would like to discuss – ‘religious’.
- One person might say that a ‘religious’ person demonstrates earnest commitment and adherence to the rules, traditions and tasks associated with a particular doctrine, lifestyle, goal or pledge.
- While another person might say that someone who is ‘religious’ demonstrates blind allegiance to outdated beliefs and backward traditions.
- And someone else might say that a ‘religious’ person uses their beliefs to distance themselves from and past judgment on anyone who dares to think or live differently than they do.
The word ‘religious’ can be used in a lot of different ways by a lot of different people to mean a lot of different things. In general though, especially with regards to someone who is living a surrendered life of devotion to Jesus Christ, ‘religious’ seems to be taking on a more and more negative tone. And we, meaning followers of Jesus Christ, may be deserving of such condemnation if we are putting:
- Results over Reason
- Regulations over Rapport
- Responsibilities over Respect
A Condemnation of Self-Imposed Religion
- Colossians 2:21 – 23 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
- Imposing meaningless restrictions on your own life in response to what others expect, so you can feel good about yourself as you begin to see yourself as better than they are, without ever actually addressing the true issues of your fallen nature – that is pride dressed up as humility while living a life of hypocrisy.
- 1 Peter 5:6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,
A Chastisement of Empty Religion
- James 1:26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.
- If you think you are pious, but your life is characterized by loose lips, you are deceiving yourself and living a life of pointless religion. Never forget the connection between your words and the state of your heart.
- Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.
- Luke 6:45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
A Characterization of God-Honoring Religion
- James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
- A way of life that results in caring for those who can’t care for themselves, while keeping physically and morally guarded against the contamination that results from interacting with the sinful world system under which we all currently live, demonstrates religious behavior that honors and emulates our Heavenly Father.
- Psalm 68:5 A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation.
- Leviticus 11:45 For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
My hope is, that if you examine my life, looking beyond how desperately short I fall of the example set by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, you will see that my motives and intentions are, by the grace and gifts of God, purer and greater than what can be accomplished by attempting to adhere to the rules of, and carrying the burden of expectations placed on my life by, ‘religion’.
Then, and only because of Jesus, and only because of what He has done for and in me (giving me eternal life and a new nature based on a personal relationship with Him, not how well I comply with the rules and traditions of men), perhaps you will see me as someone who is becoming more loving, merciful, gracious, forgiving, patient, kind, generous, etc.
In other words, my prayer is that you will call me someone who is becoming more like Jesus.
But please, don’t call me religious.
Father, guard me from attitudes and actions that lead to empty compliance with rules and prideful attention to the expectations of men. May Your Spirit sustain and enhance the loving and joyful relationship I have with Jesus. I pray that Your Word, Your Holy Spirit and Your Son will continue to transform me into the man of God You have called me to be. I humbly and expectantly pray these things in the name above all names, Jesus Christ. Amen.