By Pastor Tim White
Religion is defined in a variety of ways. In some cases, a cultural response to a deity, and in other cases, a cultural response to a belief in a non-deity. There have been so many religious wars throughout history and we still have them today. There are wars even within single religions when participants conflict with one another. I remember when an editor for the Seattle Times wrote an article against us building our building stating that the community “did not want another anti-scientific group of fundamentalists in our community.” I corresponded with this editor who was a Professor of Journalism at the Western Washington University. I asked if he had ever been to our church or read anything about our church that led him to describe us in that way. I explained to him that our church was a cross-section of people and many were scientists representing differing views. I let him know that we all use our reasoning brain in our faith because we have been taught to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, our soul and our mind. I told him further, that personally, I want to follow what I understand to be true and I refuse to leave my mind out of the equation. He apologized, and I offered that we could get together for coffee to get to know one another better. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the basis of any religious conflict was a civilized conversation between two human beings who love first? In other words, they respect one another and try to learn from one another.
If you look up religion on the internet, you will get a list of very interesting definitions. Most of them referring to real world applications of the term. But originally the term, as I understand it, comes from Middle English which implies obligations to monastic vows. This term comes from the Old French or Latin "religare", meaning “to bind”. I am sure that in our common views and definitions there is an implied reverence, but there is also more and more distaste for the binding obligation which seems to bring so much gloom to our world. I believe that Jesus came to set us free from that kind of religion. He came to give us life and to teach us how to live it more abundantly. The Bible does not say: People, let us be religious together for religion is from God and everyone that is obligated to religion knoweth God. No! the Bible says, Beloved, let us love one another for everyone that loveth, knoweth God for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8. As any good Christ-follower knows, our faith is all about a personal relationship with God. A relationship that “comes by grace through faith lest anyone should boast.”
I met two of the most inspiring people in my life last week! We visited as they came into the church because I had not seen them in a while. What encouragement it is to say “Hi” to life- long friends. This just kicks off a great worship service in my mind. Meeting new friends, checking in with others. Laughing, sometimes praying together always brings joy and sincere friendship. Since I was over my cold this week, could be back there visiting with friends as usual without worry of spreading a horrible cold.
I checked in with a couple who had moved away, and they began to tell me all the things they were doing in their retirement to impact the world with the love of Jesus. They shared with me how excited they are to be impacting their community with the love of God in their free time. They donated a truck from their construction company to a program which reclaims and fixes home utilities and gives them free-of-charge to senior adults. They have given away many thousands of dollars of refrigerators, ovens, washers and dryers. They told me about their beautiful home on the water where they watch ships go by and about their grandchildren and all the wonderful things Christ was doing through their lives. They were so encouraging about the church, and to me, that I just felt like I had encountered a couple of angels.
A relationship with God that is merely cultural religion is just that -- cultural religion and, because I don’t really want to say anything negative, I won’t say anything about that. Maybe “forget religion” is too strong. Instead, I just want to point out how world-impacting a joy-filled personal relationship with God is when Jesus is your friend.
Please join me this week as we discuss how each person can become a world-changer when it is friend-to-friend and how, together with God, we can join Him in doing something really beautiful in our community.
Your friend for the rest of my life,
Pastor Tim White