This theme of being a religious person, but not knowing Jesus has been on my mind so strongly the past few days. The crazy thing is when you're in the middle of it — being religious — you aren't even aware of it!
I know, because I used to be like that. I was raised in church, worked in church for years, always doing the right thing. I was more concerned about making people behave right. I was more focused with the outward appearance rather than the heart of a person.
I wanted them to stop cussing because I didn't like the "F" word, or to stop being depressed because Christians should never be depressed - they have Jesus and everything should always be perfect, right?
"I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you [religious people], you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either." (Matthew 23:13-14)
I wanted people to just stop doing things that were wrong. I was so focused on the symptoms, that I completely forgot to consider the person I was judging. I never once wondered what was going on in their life that made them feel the way they felt.
It's so easy to try and fix the symptoms - Stop cussing, stop drinking, stop looking at porn, stop sinning, stop misbehaving. By focusing on the outward issues, it's easy to never look at the underlying issues of the heart.
In doing this, we train people to be fake. We teach them to pretend that everything is always happy and good when they're around us. Through our actions we tell them it's not ok to struggle with things in life. Then we sit back and wonder why people won't open up and talk with us about their issues. We wonder why people don't want to go to church with us. We wonder why people have such a disdain for Christianity. We can't understand why so many people call Christians hypocrites.
Perhaps it's because we're not acting like Jesus.
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You're like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it's all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. (Matthew 23:27)
I've looked at verses like this for years and always thought to myself "God, I'm glad I'm not like that. I'm glad I'm a good person and have my act together. I'm glad I'm not religious" Yet I was completely blind to how I was looking down on people who weren't like me. People who were hurting.
Have you forgotten what you were like before Jesus saved you? Have you forgotten that He loved you despite the complete and utter mess you made of your own life? When you were sitting there in your own crap unable to clean yourself up, He loved you enough to call you by name and wipe off the shit you were covered in. He forgave you. He made you a new person on the inside. And he still forgives you even when you screw up. Even when you think you've done something unforgivable. Jesus is always there to rescue you and bring you back to himself.
Your past doesn't define your identity or your future. But may it be a constant reminder of what Jesus has saved you from. I pray that Jesus convicts your heart to help you see people like he sees them and to love them despite the messiness and the things we don't agree with. I pray that God uncovers the religious attitudes in your own life, and helps you to act more like Jesus.
April 07, 2012