**Disclaimer-My thoughts are always jumbled. I have a hard time making a point. Sometimes I don't know what my point is. Read at your own risk.** ~Tara
(Yes, yes, the blog is about our work and experiences in Haiti ... but sometimes it goes astray a bit. Today, it will.) The combination of the Lenten season and our new home have us in an introspective place.
The question is asked: "Oooh, are you religious?"
What does that mean? Have you ever been asked that, or asked someone that?
I have, and I really don't know what the question means.
I think it has different meanings - depending on who is asking.
One time someone said "We know you have your religion, and all and that is nice .... but..."
Then there is "What religion are you?"
I of course, am a Christian. The only problem is most everyone thinks Christians are hypocrites ... and most everyone is kind of, sort of right about that. What a bummer that is! Something to work on for sure.
I would answer, "I am a follower of Jesus Christ." "Erratic, far from perfect, but forgiven."
That is where we, as a family, are in our faith journey. We are learning everyday and we mess up every day but our strong desire is to follow Jesus. To us that means, act like Him to the best of our ability and confess when we royally mess it all up.
We don't like the word "religious", to us that is like the church lady (from way back with Dana Carvey) on Saturday Night Live. We don't care much for rituals, and rules, we prefer relationships and restoration.
We are concerned (and even sad) for folks who believe you need to meet some standard of service that your church or family has set up ... arbitrary lists of things you must do to "be a good Christian."
Those legalistic views don't work for Jesus and they don't work for us. Jesus was about relationships.
Since Troy and I met in 1996, we have had a nutty church background, we have attended (some very briefly) all of these varieties of churches/denominations-
Covenant - Christian and Missionary
In Haiti, we are currently attending two churches. One English speaking and one Creole speaking - if you really wanted to label them; we think they would most closely resemble Pentecostal and Baptist. We have not thought to ask for the official titles. It doesn't matter much.
In every church we ever attended we could find a problem - they believe this or they do this or they don't do this. Their pastor is this, their music is that - and on and on. It became an excuse to keep from committing to one body. It made us hypocrites too.
After a lot of years of soul searching we came to realize that we were the problem and while they might not be perfect, no perfect church exists - because we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. (For it is by GRACE that we are saved.)
We have come to a place in our lives where we can go into a Bible believing church, be with a body of believers, and make friends without worrying what exactly they think about infant baptism or what exactly they believe about spiritual gifts or what they believe about the apocalypse.
That is not to say we don't have our opinions and beliefs, we do. We have come to a place where we care more about focusing on what the BIBLE says and on Jesus and what He did for us --instead of focusing on semantics and details that only detract from the Glory that God has planned for all who believe. We are always humbled to be in any church where the people are in the word, know the Lord and the fruit of that relationship is evident in their love for one another and their joyful attitudes.
You don't have to share convictions, to learn from examples.
There are some big ones that we wouldn't want to compromise on but for the rest, I don't need to convince someone to see it my way - we can agree to disagree about some things and to focus on the fact that we both believe Jesus died on a cross to save us and promised ALL who confess their sin and believe in Him, that they will be with Him for eternity. Beyond that, we know He challenges us to be holy but offers us unmerited love and forgiveness when we are not. He loves us even in the midst of our messy lives. He meets us right where we are. He knows we are flaky.
He desires to use each of us for HIS purposes.
Look what He's doing with messes like us. That speaks volumes about what God can do!
We go to church to support our friends who might need support, to worship collectively, and to be supported ourselves and fed spiritually. We do this so that when we are out in the real world, away from the safety net of a church experience we might better be able to be like Jesus. It is not really about what happens at church, it is about what happens away from church.
Relationship with Him over ritual. Resotration over rules. Are we religious? You tell me.
Either way, we pray the same prayer for you as for ourselves this Easter season. We pray that you (and we) would be open to what the Lord has for us all, open to His love and mercy. We pray we'll all be open to examining ourselves closely to see where we have need for change and room for growth.