While being a follower of Jesus may lead me to participate in religious behaviors, being a religious person does not necessarily make me a follower of Jesus. The following post was originally published back in may of 2013. It still resonates with me. Another good one to sow out there again. By the way, tomorrow I plan to start journeying through Exodus. It’s been 11 years since the last time I blogged through it. It’s time to return to the story of Moses. In the meantime, enjoy…
The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just
than when we offer him sacrifices.
Proverbs 21:3 (NLT)
Over the years I’ve had many people refer to me as a religious person. The term has always bothered me. The truth of the matter is that when you read the first-hand accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry you find that He saved His most harsh criticism and angry judgment for the most religious people of His day.
When Jesus encountered a woman caught in the act of adultery He said to her:
“I don’t condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
When Jesus talked to the religious church goers He said:
“You hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
When Jesus encountered a man with leprosy who said, “If you’re willing, you can make me clean,” Jesus reached out and touched the leprous man and said:
“I’m willing. Be clean.”
When Jesus talked to the religious church elders He said:
“You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”
When a poor, paralytic man was brought to Jesus, He said to the man:
“Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Then Jesus healed the man.
When Jesus talked to the religious fundamentalists He said:
“You religiously give your ten percent, but you have neglected the more important matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
When Jesus took the time to ask a woman, who was a social outcast and racially persecuted, for a drink, He said to her:
“Whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give will become a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.”
When Jesus talked to the strict, religious people He said:
“You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
My desire is to follow Jesus each day in the way I forgive, touch, heal, reach, cleanse, embrace, and love. If I fail in this attempt while becoming a good, conservative, church-going, religious person then it is clear to me from Jesus’ own words that I have left the path of His footsteps and have failed miserably in my quest.
So, when I hear people refer to me as a “religious” person, I’ll confess that my heart sinks. I know they may not mean it the way that I receive it, but still. Religious is not the goal. Love is the goal. So, at the moment I hear someone calling me religious, I silently ask God to forgive me for being religious. Then I quietly ask Him to help me be more like Jesus.
Featured Photo: Christ forgives the woman caught in adultery by Boucher (French). From the Met Collection. Public Domain.