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Not Religious, Simply Known

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

You didn't come for religion. You want a relationship with me... When I gave You all my heart, I found a freedom like I never felt before. - Relationship by Phil Wickham

"Oh so you're like really religious, huh?"

As I have navigated college life the past few months, I have continually found myself struggling with this question. It seems like every time I mention something about God or someone finds out that I love Jesus, this is their immediate reaction. And it is frustrating...

To me the word "religious" invokes all kinds of connotations revolving around institutionalized indoctrination. It stirs to mind pictures of gilded banisters, muraled ceilings, and stained glass windows. "Religion" draws forth this idea of an organized system; a subscription to a rigid law, and a binding "conformity". It's full of rules and regulations, do's and do not's, can not's and should not's...

If you know me at all, you would know that I love languages, especially Latin and the etymology of words. A lot of our understanding of the world is created through our use of words to describe it. And by understanding where those words come from and what they mean, we can grow our knowledge and view of everything else. In the case of the word "religion", its etymology dates back to the 13th century where it is widely believed to be derived from the Latin words "religio" and "religare". "Religio" can be translated as "obligation" and "religare" as "to bind, restrain, and tie back", both of which stir up images of bondage and strict duty. And neither of which allow for any thought of freedom...

This binding imagery that "religion" is caught up in is not the imagery that I want associated with my faith. I do not believe in legalism or performing for a higher power. I do not believe that my life is bound by unbreakable and unforgiveable rules or that I must do everything perfectly to achieve some spiritual gift. I do not believe that my life is meant to be lived under an iron clad fist. And I do not believe that Jesus died and rose again for something like that...

My faith is founded on the good news that my Heavenly Father loves me so much that He sacrificed His own flesh and blood to wash me white as snow. My faith is rooted in the fact that there is no more need for legalistic perfectionism to earn favor. My God has done the work already. "It is finished". Jesus broke the bonds of death and tore down the separation between me and Him; He came to give me freedom. And He came to offer me a relationship with Him...

The One who made the vast ocean and the wonder-filled stars, the expansive valleys and the ambitious mountaintops, is the same One, who in all of His infinity, desperately desires a relationship with every one of His beloved children. He does not require that we come dressed in our very best with our messes hidden behind masks of perfection before He turns His face towards us. He does not require that we bind up our loose ends and submit to merciless rule-following before He listens. And He does not require that we fix our own mistakes through guilted conformity before He opens His arms.

He is always looking upon us, attentively listening to us, and lovingly waiting for us to run into His outstretched arms. He willingly comes to sit with us in our mess, while we are in a heap on the bathroom floor and feel as if we can no longer go on. And He sits there until we are ready for Him to lift us up and pull us out.

He offers us a relationship like no other, one that is full of grace and compassion, mercy and healing. He calls us into more, into His vision for our lives, into full life where there are infinitely many reasons to find joy and where there is endless freedom.

So no, I am not religious. I simply know the One who created me, who calls me by name and who comes to sit with me on the bathroom floor when I am a mess. I have a relationship with Him. His name is Jesus, and friend, you could know Him too.

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