I heard a story on the radio this morning about one of the Duggar cousins who recently got married. It was mentioned that at the wedding reception there was alcohol and dancing. Those sharing the story were somewhat shocked because the comment went, “Isn’t that a religious family?”
What immediately came to my mind when I heard this is how those who are deemed as religious are typically characterized, a characterization I believe to be accurate, by the way. First, a person is given the descriptor “religious” by what s/he will not do. Typically, this person will not drink alcohol or smoke or dance or go to movies or listen to any music with any type of beat or use playing cards (BTW, those were all activities that, as a child, my church taught me were all activities that were straight from the pit of hell and that no good, upright Christian should ever participate in them). There are a whole host of activities from which a religious person is restricted from doing or participating in. And this is the first of two reasons for which a person is deemed as being “religious.”
Second, a person is deemed “religious” because of a strict adherence to a list of things that must be done. Isn’t it interesting that a person who does something with a seriousness or a high level of making sure of doing it is said to be doing it “religiously?” A person who strictly adheres to a moral code or observances and requirements is said to be religious. For example, I was told that the number of chapters of the Bible I read during a given week revealed how devoted I was to Christ. Memorizing Bible verses showed how spiritual I was. And, indirectly, I learned to deem myself more spiritual than others by reading more chapters and memorizing more verses than they did.
Being religious means being unyielding in adhering to and carrying out a code of requirements, observances, and do’s & don’ts.
By the religious of his day (the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the like), Jesus was deemed irreligious because he would not abide by their rules. Christians of the early church were deemed irreligious because they were monotheistic, not polytheistic like the culture around them.
The problem with being characterized as “religious” is it usually implies an inflexibility in responding to different situations. Additionally, it usually implies that maintaining the standard is of higher value, importance, and priority than how people are being treated while maintaining that standard. Being “religious” means that people aren’t truly as important as adhering to the code. That’s the reason why the “religious” of Jesus’ day were incensed at many of the actions he did; those actions, such as healing a man on the Sabbath, were deemed wrong because they violated the letter of the code, even if a man was healed. It didn’t matter.
The preceding is why I do not consider myself “religious.” I don’t want to be like that and God, in giving me the nature of His Son, has not created me to be that way. I truly believe that when a follower of Christ is religious, it is residue the old nature and must be swept out.
Being “religious” is not what the gospel is all about. Just ask Jesus.