Religion sounds so confining and structured. It's organized and institutional. And, it seeks to keep us focused on ourselves. "Do I believe what is approved, do I worship as I should, and do I keep the rules?"
If it was kept totally between you and the stranger sitting beside you in seat 14A, how would you describe yourself?
- I am a Christian.
- I am a believer, but still have my struggles.
- I am a member of _______ church or denomination.
- I go to church, but I don't get all weird about it.
- I am a spiritual person.
- I used to go to church, but not much now.
- I am a follower of Jesus.
- I am kind of a seeker/searcher.
- If there was a God, I don't think he or she would want me.
- I believe in a higher power.
- I want to believe.
- Generations of my family go to church, guess where I am every Sunday?
Are you satisfied with your response? Does it describe your faith?
Sometimes coaching faith is about asking those challenging, force you to think, questions:
- Is your faith life in the present tense or is it mostly pointed to your future life?
- Is it about staying clear of sin or enjoying amazing grace?
- Are you preoccupied with what God did for you or are you focused on seeing God in others?
- Do you feel compelled to keep others pure and righteous, or is your heart filled with compassion and forgiveness and mercy regardless of conditions?
- Is your life about convincing others about God in Heaven or is it about being on God's team living in a sacred reality right now?
I have friends who claim they are from the "old school." They prefer the traditional approach to all this. They have already answered the big questions. They have the answers before people ask the questions. Comfort and peace are valued, doctrine and ritual are assured. No surprises expected.
Mystery and wonder and the unexpected are discounted and ignored.
Paul wrote to Timothy:
There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV).
Supposed you are seated in 14A, what do you say now?
"I am a follower of Jesus. He has healed this broken person and given me a mission bigger than me — I get to be part of his story."
Jaylin thought being religious was the same thing as being a Christian. She had a life filled with challenges. One of her "in your face" struggles came after a significant car accident.
"After the accident I referred to the nurse who prayed for me as being religious. When my Christian friend repeated that story, she referred to the nurse as a Christian. So, is there a difference?" Jaylin asked.
Jaylin has learned that there are people in every denomination that are religious with no real walk with God. They are doing all the right things, but it's a burden. There is no passion or joy in serving others. Jaylin said:
I remember walking in and being struck by the way there was so much joy in that place. People were clapping their hands, smiling, and singing with tears in their eyes to this God that was so real to them. I stood there and cried. Not so much for my marriage, but because it dawned on me that I have been living my life without God.
I felt the pain deep in my soul of a life without Him. As I realized what a great sacrifice He offered me by dying on the cross for my sins, I felt His love for me, and I found myself broken before Him. As all the pride was gone, and I was truly seeking the forgiveness of God, I felt the fulfillment that I had been seeking all long. Peace, love, and joy flooded my heart, and I became a Christian.
Jaylin had grown up with religion and still felt unfulfilled. But in that moment of brokenness, she experienced the difference.
Religion is Christianity without brokenness.
Seat 14A: What would you say? Write it out. Ask God to help you keep editing your answer.
It's a mystery. That's why it's faith that empowers us. We will never know enough, but we will keep reading and growing and discovering and searching. That's what people of faith do.