If you’ve followed Lambchow for a while, you may recall that we have a couple of barn cats. Callie and Boots divide their time between a small cathouse on the back deck and our old barn. While somewhat tame, they are also easily spooked by the unexpected. For instance, at feeding time, they will let us pet them. But approach them from another direction or at another time, and they won’t let us near. Callie and Boots have very defined expectations of what is comfortable and what is disconcerting. And so, do we.
One of the seeds that Lambchow seeks to sow is that of focusing on Jesus and not on the religious fluff that often gets between Christ and us. But, like that poor soul trying to take a speck of sawdust out of a brother’s eye while hampered by the log in his own, we need to realize something. It’s easy to point the finger at someone else’s worship, traditions, and practices as unnecessary religion and not see our own religious issues because we’re comforted by them.
Let’s define this a bit more. Religion itself is not a bad word or a bad thing. It essentially means those things which we believe and practice to confirm, enhance, and enjoy our faith. We all have religion. We have a preferred type of worship, levels of formality, and specific traditions. I myself prefer the more modern worship style born out of the Jesus Movement of the ’60s and ’70s. I’m most comfortable in a less-formal setting which feels like a family gathering. And my traditions harken back to my Anabaptist roots of seeking to eliminate traditions. I shy away from that which is liturgical and formal and seems manufactured.
It is easy for me to see religious stumbling blocks in others and not see them in myself. I think that is part of our human nature. But truth be told, I don’t care what your religious practices are. I don’t care if you worship on Sunday or Saturday or any other day. It doesn’t matter what Bible translation you prefer (with a few caveats) or what style of music you worship with. Neither do I care if you employ crafted prayers or prefer those which are impromptu. It doesn’t matter to me if the leader is robed, in a suit and tie, or wearing a t-shirt, blue jeans and sandals. What I do care about is this – do you know and love Jesus.
Too many have gone down the road of rightism – I’m right, and you’re wrong. There are far too many examples of rightism for me to choose one as an example. But rightism is not righteousness; it never was and never will be. Our righteousness is in Christ, not in the religious practices we employ to draw near to Him. We must instead rejoice with the Body of Christ in all its parts. Encourage all to seek Jesus and put off judging one another because of religious practices and preferences.
This past year with its fear and lockdowns has forced us all to reconsider our way and to think about what is important and what is just so much fluff. We’ve learned that while our screens may hold our attention, they do not feed the soul in the same way as in-person connections. We’ve been challenged towards authentic faith in Christ and away from religious habit. In a way, it was like a global litmus test. When all was stripped away, did we continue in the way of Christ, or did our faith fall away like chaff from wheat?
The purpose of writing this is not what you may think. I’m not advocating the removal of all that is religious or traditional. What I am encouraging is that we look at ourselves, examine our way, and determine to be authentic believers regardless of the religious practices we’re comfortable with. And, along with that, to recognize authentic faith in others even if they don’t observe our religious practices and traditions.