I have a lot of friends who have a real problem with religion-
We will get into a discussion about church or something along those lines and they will always say to me, “I love God Lydia, don’t get me wrong- I just hate religion.”
So I pondered this. I like closure to all things in life and I hate not ever having a closing statement to give to them. I want to always say, “But our church is awesome, it’s not about religion at all, it’s about loving God and loving neighbor and…” but I can never put it eloquently enough to make a grand ruling statement that ends in “I won, you lost, see you Sunday?” So, I don’t say a thing because I can’t persuade them enough to understand. So then I thought to myself- maybe I’m the problem. Maybe if they saw enough Jesus in me, it would cancel how out how wacky some Christians can be and how badly it all is portrayed in pop-culture, and the pre-existing notions of what they think “church” really is. Maybe if they saw enough of God’s love in me, they would want what I have, and be asking me where to find that.
No one is perfect and no one is pretending to be. At my church, you’re not going to find a bunch of people that look down on you every time you stumble, and kick you in the ribs when you’re already down. Trust me— I think I told most of them to leave (I might have been pregnant, very hormonal, and on a typing spree… I plead the fifth).
So round about, here is what I’ve concluded to saying when someone gives me the classic “I love God, but hate religion” statement and that Christians are “hypocritical”, “fake”, and “judgmental”—
“I used to hate church too. I felt that all eyes were on my every move as a pastor’s kid. I felt like a lot of the times, people were waiting for me to mess up. I got nasty comments said to me on everything from my clothes to my hair color, to the “stripper” shoes I had on, and it drove me away from church. Then I really wanted to prove all of them right. I started screwing up out of spite and anger, and did a lot of less-than-perfect things. It was almost a statement back to them saying “you always wanted it- here you go”. I offered their hypocritical hands my actions on a silver platter as I condescendingly smiled and walked away- I could have cared less what repercussions there were because I was Lydia, and I was proving a point even if it killed me doing so. It wasn’t until I experienced devastation in so many areas of my life for years, pain that you wouldn’t wish upon anyone, and a hurtful situation that my eyes were opened. I had been through moments of hell that you would never believe. I was a jaded fire cracker filled with hatred, judgment, and more anger than any young adult should have. But I never blamed God. I knew that God was good and people are idiots but when I looked in the mirror, I had become the exact reason why I hated it all so bad. I had become that self-proclaimed “Christian”, that was un-loving, judgmental, and exactly the same person as those people that once drove me away. I then realized that if you are around people who say they love God and hate religion, then you haven’t shown them enough Jesus to tell them otherwise.
People’s actions can make or break someone, especially on the touchy topic of Christianity. I had been broken once and I was a pastor’s kid- I should have been strong enough to stand firm, but with so much angst in my heart, I was driven away. When I became a follower of Christ on my own decision, I knew that I wasn’t or would never be perfect. I knew that people are humans and we are all screwed up a little, but I wanted to shine enough light into a bitter darkness that it would remove all doubt about why I go to church and love to worship God. It’s not about religion at all you see and if you find yourself at a place where you think it’s becoming that, run.
God didn’t send Jesus to create a bunch of critical-hating-condemners. God sent Jesus so that we may be saved and if we truly love Him, we need to talk about it, and shine our lights un-obnoxiously with love. If we rid ourselves of hate, and strip ourselves of anger, and realize that people might mess up and let you down- If we realize we have a God who is a restorer, a healer, and a Savior, and if we purge ourselves of all unrighteousness and only let His light in and show them His deepest saving love that we’ve been given through mercy, then I don’t think you’ll have people telling you that they “Love God but hate religion” anymore, because they will see—it was never about religion at all.
“16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven……… whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.