While preparing for a pre-game meal and chapel talk one day, an assistant women’s basketball coach commented to me, “You’re not like most of the religious people I’ve known.” I smiled and replied, “Good. I don’t intend to be religious. I would prefer to be highly committed to Christ, but rather irreligious.” She said, “That’s interesting.” My reflexive comment to my friend was true and heart-felt and I’m still happy with it.
I’d like to explore the difference between being “religious” and being “highly committed to Christ.” Religious people carry the external trappings of Christianity as their defining marks. Highly committed Christians carry their commitment to Jesus internally as their defining characteristic and allow that commitment to find external expression in numerous, often less religious ways. Some examples of each may help us see the difference.
Religious people speak with each other in clichés and the King James language they learn at church. Highly committed believers in Jesus are free to speak in the language of the subculture in which they are serving Him; in our case, that is the language of sport. Religious people would rather sit in judgment over people whose lifestyles don’t fit their standards. Highly committed Christian men and women demonstrate love and commitment to those they serve without respect to their lifestyles, wise or foolish. Their grasp of their own wickedness of heart and the weakness of their own flesh keeps judgmental attitudes at bay.
I don’t shun the sinful or cluck my tongue at foolish speech. I don’t Tebow because it’s trendy nor do I repeat or retweet every syllable uttered by John Piper (insert the name of any other celebrity preacher) as if it were holy writ. I don’t pretend that attending my local church is the answer to everyone’s social ills and that if they simply walk through the door all their problems will be solved. I don’t counsel new believers in Jesus to shun their former circle of friends and teammates in order to adopt a more suitable set of friends who won’t pollute their lives with wickedness. I don’t wear WWJD bracelets and I haven’t burned my secular music recordings (Gasp!). I don’t go to trendy “Christian films” which are simply gospel tracts on celluloid. I’m bored with the passionless music poured out by contemporary Christian music stations and I’m repulsed by Southern Gospel music. I prefer reading Seth Godin and Malcom Gladwell to Max Lucado and Joel Osteen.
This distaste for “religious” things and preference for “heartfelt commitment” often leads to my being misunderstood by others in the Church. I’m fine with that. I rather enjoy the questions asked of me about such things; the question asked by the assistant basketball coach being emblematic of such questions and the conversations which normally follow. Please take the risk of being misunderstood and questioned about your lack of religiousness in favor of a genuine, passionate expression of your love for the Lord Jesus. It’s worth it and we’re much less boring people with whom to interact.