I always hated being called religious. Mostly because the word leaves such a bad taste in my mouth, as it does to most people. When I think of religious and when I think of what other people think of religious I think of statues and a bunch of rules. I think of going to church every Sunday just because it is the traditional thing to do. I think of the people who stand on street corners telling girls that have had an abortion that they will go to hell. I think of people who brag about how much money they can give to church. I think of a bunch of made up rules or putting too much importance on the candles that are used or thinking one is better than another. I think of religious people as those who judge people or those who just go to church and don't really care outside of that. I think of the religious rulers of the bible who worried so much about the structure of how ceremonies were run or following their made up rules and couldn't grasp why Jesus hung out with the "sinners."
Jesus came to tell us that the kingdom of God is not about what we eat or drink or wear, but that it is about our hearts. It is about living a life of freedom. Freedom from addictions, hurts from our past, bitterness, fear, etc. It is about power, power to heal and make us whole again. It is about loving those around us even if they are tough to love. It is about healing for those who committed abortions; physical healing and healing from guilt. It is about forgiving each other and moving on. It is about caring and praying for each other. God does hold us to a high standard of Holy living and purity, but he does not call us to legalism in the church. That is what I believe, so being called religious always seemed to make me feel like I represent the first paragraph just because I claim to love Jesus.
But I don't want the word religious to be so bad to me anymore. Actually if I take the word religious or religion from the bible I may find a whole new meaning that quite possibly is changing the taste it leaves in my mouth. The verse I love in James says that pure religion is caring for the widows and orphans. It talks about watching what we say. I don't mind being called religious if it means caring for people who are in desperate need and if it means watching what I say about others and staying away from gossip.
Being religious does have to do more with what we "do". So we must remember that redemption does not come from being religious. What matters first of all is us realizing none of us are perfect but God loves each of us so much that he loves us even when we screw up. We are all made in his image. Each one of us. The good works we do is just a result of our truly understanding what Jesus did for us.