Leaving the Religious Program and Entering into Life

Outsiders GuideOne of the dangers with religion is it can so easily fool you into believing you’re living your life, when in fact all you are doing is going round and round in circles, doing the same thing week in, week out, talking to the same people, speaking with the same language, talking about the same things.

There is a whole world of random and wonderful people and things to experience, but until you give yourself the liberty to live your life free from the trappings of religion, the danger is that you end up just doing what is comfortable, what is endorsed by the church leaders, what is already programmed for you.

I think Jesus broke this mold, this religious idea of life, and stepped fully into the reality of life around him. He got out and lived his life with people, all kinds of people. Not as a missionary or holy roller, but as a friend, as a fellow adventurer in life—as an equal.

In the gospels we read how Jesus was always around people. He had a life full of relationships. Always talking, drinking, eating, relaxing; sometimes entertaining his guests and sometimes being entertained by them. What is fascinating is that these relationships were not based on these people holding to the same theology and doctrines as Jesus did. In fact, it’s safe to say that none of them believed like Jesus did. Yet he was always in the company of people, and these connections became very deep and heart felt relationships.

It seems to me that if we truly want a life full of loving relationships, we need to care less about what doctrines or world views people believe and more about the actual person. When we let our love for others be what unites us, we begin to have a life full of meaningful relationships.

Seeking out relationships or fellowship based on doctrinal agreements is a sad and ineffective substitute for love. What we need to do is choose the more divine way. The way that allows love to be what unites us to others, for that, I honestly believe, is the way of Christ.

Theology is interesting, fascinating, in fact. I spend a great deal of my life pondering it. But the theology we share and expound upon is still just a clanging gong in the ears of people if it does not first inspire our lives to actively transcend the social, racial, political, and religious boundaries around us, and to live a life of love. This, I believe, Jesus modeled. I don’t need to give you examples, just read through the gospels, you see it all for yourself if you’re looking for it.

Jesus knew God better than anyone, yet he did not live with his thoughts always stuck in Bible verses and theological studies. Rather, he was present in the moment, right there, happily engaged with a diverse variety of people and enjoying their company.

It was precisely because he knew God better than anyone that allowed him to truly live in the moment. He valued the interaction of people, of all people, and it did not depend on what kind of people they were, or what kind of theology they held, of what kind of social standing they had.

What does this show me? It shows me that I need to be careful I don’t become more in love with Bible verses and theological musings then I am with the people in my everyday life. It shows me the real value of knowing God is seeing the divine value of connecting with and loving the people around me.

It shows me that I don’t have to be a religiously sanitized person to be approved by God. Rather, I need to fully embrace my oneness with God to the point that I don’t mind getting messy if I happen to be in the presence of a messy person; more than that, it has allowed me to accept that I am a messy person, that parts of my character are flawed and parts of my personality awkward…and that’s just fine. I realize more and more that the value is not in my appearance or reputation, but in interactions I have with others, genuine connections, where I can feel my heart is fully alive.

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An excerpt from my forthcoming book (out Aug 26): An Outsider’s Guide to the Gospel.
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