Friday, August 24, 2018

“Are you religious?”

Several weeks ago I shared a meal with someone who afterwards asked me, “Are you religious?” It's rare for someone to ask me that question.

I'm sure to some that would mean this person obviously doesn't know me.

I am a believer in Jesus Christ and the good news of His coming for us. Does that make me religious?

To those who do not espouse the faith, or to some who consider faith one part of their life, I expect they would conclude I am religious. If they knew about my experience memorizing Scripture (which is how the question came up), they might say I'm very religious.

Christians, however, do not typically embrace the label of “religious.” Christians view religion as man attempting to get to God, which stands in stark contrast to the Gospel which is all about God's pursuit of man. To this end, there is a saying in Christianity, “I don't have a religion; I have a relationship,” as in a relationship with God. We think of religion as a one-way man-to-God attempt, and Christianity as two-way God-and-man relationship.

With that understanding of the term, no, I'm not religious at all.

I thought of using that expression in response to the question, but didn't bring that up because in general it felt cliché, and I know authenticity is important. Specifically, what exactly do I say next in order to explain that to someone?

Perhaps it would have been better to skip what could sound like a cliché and go straight to explaining the concepts in that expression.

Perhaps it would have been helpful to ask, “What do you mean by ‘religious’?”

Most of the time in my interactions with people (a) they already are believers, (b) they already know my faith position, or (c) people elsewhere on the theological spectrum find out my purpose in talking to them about things of faith early in a conversation. While in some of those situations the religion-vs-relationship expression might get used, in none of them would explaining it provide new information for someone about me personally.

It's rare for me to be getting to know someone without them knowing or quickly figuring out my theological context. People expect nothing less of Christians.

1 comment:

Tim McGhee said...

“The curse of the world today is religion. God would like you to get rid of religion and come to Christ. Religion is the greatest barrier for many people today. I made that statement to a man not long ago. Immediately he countered by saying, “I want you to know, Dr. McGee, that I am a religious man. I am religious by nature.” He had a fallen nature, but he had a religious nature. I think I shocked him when I told him that he ought to get rid of his religion and that I was not a religious man. He said, “I cannot believe that there is a preacher who is not religious. If you are not religious, what are you then?” I told him that I am a sinner who came to Christ and that I have a personal relationship with Him today. It is not a religion but a relationship. Do you have Christ, or don’t you? That is the important thing.”

—J. Vernon McGee on Isaiah 29:13

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