I am religious. (There, I said it, and I stand by that statement.)
And my faith in Jesus and love for His Church are at the core of my life.
Jesus-centered religion that is all about relationship is awesome. So, in that way, I am very religious and not ashamed to say so.
However, I struggle with religious people who tend to make others think that being a Christian will make a person weird.
Weird is not the goal of our faith.
Weird is not the measure of our holiness.
Weird is not what attracts people to Christ.
Weird is just weird, and let’s admit it, sometimes overly religious people are just plain weird.
Where I live, there is a guy most refer to as the “bullhorn preacher.” Admittedly, I don’t know anything about him or his life, but I do know this, it’s viewed as weird to stand on a corner and preach at passing cars and the occasional pedestrian.
Bullhorn Preacher isn’t building relationships.
Bullhorn Man isn’t serving the needy.
Bullhorn Guy isn’t doing any signs and wonders that might actually bless someone.
Bullhorn Buddy isn’t asking people, “Where are you hurting most right now? How can I pray for you? Where do you need God to show up in your life?”
He’s just shouting at cars and people. (And how much truth can anyone hear in that environment anyhow?)
I am sure he means well.
Maybe your second-cousin-once-removed found Jesus through a street preacher like him, but that’s rare, very rare.
Most of the peeps where I live who don’t know Jesus don’t want anything to do with Bullhorn’s Jesus, and I don’t blame them for their reluctance.
However, before we point fingers at others, a lot of us do some other religious things that make people shake their heads and wonder what’s wrong with us . . .
- We use weird phrases and language that don’t connect with real humans. Fact is, we Christians speak Christianese too often. “Bless the Lord, oh my soul! Did you get a witness? And do you feel the glory of Jehovah among us, brother? Praise the Lord!”
- We can’t eat a meal at a restaurant without bowing our heads, closing our eyes, taking off our hat, and holding hands with the people seated with us to “say a blessing” using King James English.
- We expect the plumber or mechanic who wears casual clothes all week to show up in his “Sunday best” (meaning a suit and clip-on tie for church).
- We communicate directly or indirectly that Jesus was a Republican. We reason, “Religion, righteousness, and Republican all start with R, and the Devil starts with D! Duh. Of course, Jesus would always vote Republican.”
Okay, before you start writing your rebuttal or looking for the unsubscribe button, please understand my heart.
- I am not suggesting we should swear like a Marine Drill Sargent. But Jesus spoke the language of the people in ways that the ordinary, everyday person could relate to.
- I am not saying that prayer doesn’t matter. But if you’re having lunch with your unsaved co-worker or friend, you can thank God for your meal any time in the day without making anyone uncomfortable. Perhaps there are better ways to demonstrate your faith.
- I am not saying it’s okay to show up to church in a bikini! But there’s nothing ungodly about casual and comfortable attire in a church service.
- I am not saying that politics don’t matter, and of course, Jesus is pro-life, but He was profoundly apolitical. You can’t pigeonhole Jesus. He didn’t have a political agenda even though Herod was a tyrant and Rome was evil. Matter of fact, Jesus was very focused on the poor and disenfranchised. So, please don’t act like Jesus always holds your particular political bent. Keep the main thing the main thing, and the main thing isn’t about politics; it’s about eternity.
So, yes, I struggle with religious people who forget that the Pharisees (i.e., the hyper-religious of Jesus’ day) were dead right in their spiritual practices but dead wrong when it came to a genuine relationship with God and meaningful relationship with the lost.
I cringe when a well-meaning Christian says or does something so peculiar that it builds a barrier rather than a bridge to the lost.
Sadly, I fear too many are driven from Jesus and His Church not because of religious doubts but because of religious ridiculousness seasoned with a dash of hypocrisy.
By the way, please don’t quote 1 Peter 2:9 to me out of the King James version where it says that we are “God’s peculiar people.” King Jimmy got that translation wrong.
He used the word peculiar, and we think “odd or weird.” A far better translation and understanding of what Peter was saying is that we are “God’s possession and His special treasure.” Or, as the Amplified puts it, “God’s own purchased, special people.”
Special does not mean weird.
Final thought: Have you ever wondered why messed up, broken, far-from-God sinners were attracted to Jesus but so often repelled by today’s Christians?
I think it’s because we are too often weird and a bit unkind about our religiosity.
Let’s be more like Him.
The Son of Man came and went to feasts and drank wine,
you said, ‘Look at this man! He is nothing but a glutton and a drunkard!
He spends all his time with tax collectors and other sinners.’
But God’s wisdom will become visible by those who embrace it.”
Matthew 11:19 (TPT)
Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.