Posts Tagged ‘legalism’

ReligiousSymbolsHere’s a statement that might get you scratching your head: I’m a serious follower of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God), but I’m not into religion.

Huh? For a lot of people, religion and spirituality are the same thing. But many people of faith will tell you that’s not so.

Psychiatrist Richard Pratt sees the difference this way: “Religion is a search for peace and security in an unsure world. Spirituality is that personal urge many of us have within, to listen to an inner voice from a deep ‘something’ that is calling us from the inside out.”

There’s nothing wrong with searching for peace and security. In fact, my commitment to following Jesus provides just that. However, it’s my faith, NOT my religion.

Fine, fine, you say. But am I guilty of linguistic hair-splitting? Some might say yes, but I’ve often found that religious people can be unpleasant and “legalistic” — that is, they spend too much time making sure they and people around them are obeying rules and keeping up proper appearances. Often, these rules and appearances have nothing to do with following Jesus.

There’s no shortage of examples: earrings on guys; drinking the occasional glass of beer or wine; attending a mainstream rock concert; getting a tattoo; shopping on Sunday; smoking cigarettes or cigars; missing a church service now and then.

Granted, just about everyone knows smoking is terrible for your health, but guess what: Jesus never called it a sin. In fact, He never mentioned smoking, tattoos, earrings, mainstream music and “religiously” attending worship services are not mentioned at all. Alcohol? One of the four original-source biographies recounting the life of Jesus has Him turning water into wine at a wedding.

So where does this “religious” drive come from? Part of our desire for peace and security translates into everyone thinking and acting similarly. That makes it easy for people to see who’s “with us” and who’s not. But it seems clear to me that God didn’t make the world for me or anyone else to mindlessly brand (and by brand, I mean “judge”) others.

In fact, Jesus had an issue with this branding/judging. One of His most famous instructions is to avoid judging people because whatever standard we use in our judging, that same standard will be used against us.

Paul, an early and influential Jesus follower, wrote a powerful reminder for all people: “It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between — not each other.”

I hope this means something to you, if you’ve ever been left with a bad taste after encountering a religious Jesus follower. And it’s my prayer that Paul’s reminder will stick with me, no matter who I encounter in this life.

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