When someone refers to me as being “religious,” it makes me cringe. You see, I’m not a big fan of religion. That’s probably a surprise to some people, given how much religious stuff I do. I am heavily involved at church. I am a seminary student. I even have a full time Christian vocation. It’s not that the religious label is offensive. It isn’t. It’s not even inaccurate. Christianity is a religion. I am a Christian, so by definition I am religious. But I still have a problem with the r-word.
I may just be strange in this respect. (I’m certainly strange in other respects, why should this be any different?) I was curious how others felt about “religion,” so I asked my Facebook friends their opinion. No one replied. So, I moved on to my Facebook fans. Still no replies. Does that mean others don’t like “religion,” either? Does it mean they just didn’t want to talk to me? I don’t know. Either way, it didn’t help clarify things.
My problem with the label is how much foolish, destructive nonsense there is that falls under the umbrella of religion. When I think of religion, I think of rules, creeds, and rituals. It has the potential to be destructive and sometimes even dangerous. I don’t want to be associated with that. Even Christianity can be destructive, if it is nothing but religion. However, Christianity can transcend religion. It can be more than simply creeds and rituals. It can be a relationship with the one true living God. The religious aspects of Christianity only have value when they exist in service to this relationship.
To see the difference between Christianity as religion and Christianity as relationship, read Matthew 7:22-23. It describes the experience religious “Christians” will have on judgement day. The people described in this passage have quite an impressive religious résumé, even casting out demons and performing miracles! However, they don’t actually know Jesus. There is no relationship. Things don’t end well for these people.
So, even though I am, at least in a sense religious, I don’t want to be defined by it. I don’t want people to think of me as a religious person. I want to be known as someone who is passionately in love with Jesus. I think that’s why the religious label makes me cringe. If people think I’m religious, then I feel that I’ve failed to show them what really matters. I don’t want my life to inspire others to follow a religion. I want to inspire people fall in love with Jesus.