When I was in High School, church activities consumed my life. I had this fire in my heart that spurred me to attend every service; Sunday Morning, Sunday Evening, and Wednesday Evenings, and often even more times than that! I was a part of everything, and I felt like an essential thread in my community of believers.
And then I entered college. And that thread was snapped.
All of a sudden, I felt as though I were on the outside looking in; I was no longer encouraged to go to youth group; I was advised to find a college group elsewhere; activities that I once had fearlessly enrolled in now caused me to hesitate as I held my pen over the application papers.
In short, I felt alone, and that fire in my heart that had once consumed me began to flicker and blow smoke.
It’s been a long road to finding true, heartwarming fellowship again. It’s not that my Brothers and Sisters in Christ shunned me or anything like that; I think it was the fact that I, being the only college student at my church, had no college group readily accessible, which made me feel isolated and distant from the whirlwind of high school activities flying by me. It was a self-induced shame that I felt because, while all of my friends in my age group went to 4-Year Universities for their freshmen year, I remained in the same place. I felt as though I were running, but not making any progress, any movement.
I’m now in a very loving and welcoming group who keep in constant contact with me and its other members. But the way they treat each other is different than how my old Youth group did; instead of behaving around each other as friends, it has a very familial atmosphere about it.
Now to refer to the title. I am a Christian. I do love the Lord. “Why,” you may ask. “Do you say you don’t have religion?”
I say this because religion isn’t Jesus, it’s a conceived notion in society today of a society of hob-nobbers and rules, of people who judge and exalt themselves. And that’s what I don’t have; what I do have is Jesus.
Christianity isn’t about following rituals or rules. When most people hear the word “religion”, they immediately think, “A list of things people have to do in order to get to Heaven,” or “Things I must do to be a good person,” or, even worse, “a cult of people who think they’re better than everyone else and try to force their beliefs on society.”
If that’s what religion is, then no wonder so many people have left the church.
Christianity isn’t about following rituals or rules. This isn’t a cult. This isn’t a club. It’s a family. We don’t refer to each other as Brothers and Sisters just for the heck of it. It’s not a title or a sign of club membership; it’s a sign of affection.
We aren’t merely just friends. We are family. We all have a common Father who adores us and whom we adore, and not just for what we can get out of it.
When you run up to your dad, do you say “I love you” while also twisting his arm to try and get something you want? I mean, sure, we all do that occasionally (My dad would say that I do this way too much). But there’s a special place in your heart for your father, your mother, a love deeper than a material desire. That’s what God is for us: he’s our Father.
When I’m with my college group, I feel the same way for them as I feel for my family. I feel relaxed around them, like I don’t have to put up a front. We can talk about religion and politics without freaking out over political correctness or getting all defensive. When I’m with my church and talking with my friends, I feel connected to them.
Of course, there are things in Christianity that you should or should not do, but they are not exclusive to Christianity. Aren’t children told constantly to “treat others as you would like to be treated” and to be loving and friendly to everyone, despite their differences? Hello, these originated in Christ! These are things we should do not because we are told to do it, but because it’s the right thing to do anyways! Society, however, has become increasingly liberal, accepting lifestyles and practices that would have caused nationwide scandals not even a hundred years ago, such as sex before marriage, teenage pregnancy, abortion, and homosexuality. Not to say that Christians should shun people that do these things – we are loving of everyone, after all – but that we should try to restrain ourselves from engaging in the same practices.
The sad thing is, many Christians do feel as though, since they don’t do these things, they are better than those who do; many times, this is a subconscious assertion, but it can cause that perception of “hob-nob” Christians in others.
I don’t have a ritualistic religion; I have a family of Christians. And that’s how it’s supposed to be.