In a conversation with a co-worker many years ago, she described me as religious and I found myself deeply offended. She didn’t accuse me of it, or even compliment me of it; it was part of a deeper conversation surrounding death, illness and suffering. She just sort of made note of it.
I was initially thrown for a loop. As a child, having been raised in what I call a culturally religious family, I performed sacraments that were empty and meaningless. I adhered to doctrine that I didn’t understand and I never, ever cracked open a Bible. I knew who Jesus was, kind of, but I knew more about rituals and liturgies than about His righteousness and love.
The insufficiency of religion is what propelled my spiritual walk, and for that I am grateful. So after years of seeking, accepting and learning about Christ, when my friend called me religious, it hit an old nerve. I surprised myself by responding with calm conviction that I didn’t consider myself religious at all, that I had chosen faith as a life-style instead of religion. Faith that includes a church, the Bible and a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not bashing any church or denomination. I am criticizing my own empty, uneducated, spiritual condition that was going through the motions, but wanting more. With Easter approaching, I think of the many church attenders who will hear only liturgy instead of love, and may know of Jesus, but don’t really know Him. I ache for those who know that there is more and I want to give you assurance that there is!
Easter is a beautiful celebration, without it you can’t have Christmas. The birth of baby Jesus is meaningless without the resurrection of the (divine) man. Andy Stanley says, “It wasn’t the teachings of Jesus that sent His followers into the streets, it was His resurrection.” I Corinthians 15 reports that after His death Jesus appeared to more than 500 people, in the flesh. In that passage the Apostle Paul says that if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile. I am by no means a scholar, but I don’t know of any other spiritual teacher/leader who did not meet with a final, mortal death. Jesus says to Thomas in John 20:27-29, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” People, this really happened; it isn’t a fairy tale, a folk lore or a piece of fictional fantasy. I choose to trust the guy who conquered death; I choose to give my faith to the one who loved me that much!
Jesus’ sacrificial death is not only proof of God’s love for us, but the invitation of eternal life (made possible by… ta da… the resurrection!) Back in I Corinthians 15 Paul writes in verse 19, If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. This point drives deep into my heart. How sad is it if Jesus’ teachings are only a coping mechanism for me in this life, with no promise for tomorrow? There is so much hope beyond today and there is so much power that is available to me through the work of the cross, really! I live this out in the minutia of my days as well as in the mess of tragedy. More importantly, many others, besides the Disciples, died for this truth.
I know I sound religious, but I’m not! I’m in love and I am deeply loved back. This love gives my faith carte blanche, this love attracts my obedience and this love endures even when I doubt. This love is bigger than my insecurities, my insufficiency and my iniquities. I celebrate this love this Easter in sacraments that are now filled with beautiful meaning because I understand the cost, the love and the victory that makes eternity available through the resurrection; a very real and historical event.
I love how Jesus, in another conversation with Thomas, addresses eternity.
“I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me… Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”
(John 14:2-6, 11)
This Easter, I believe afresh in the miracle of the resurrection that opens the door to eternal life. This incredible piece of history inspired the Disciples and continues to inspire great works of faith in all of us who believe. I don’t think religion did this, I think Jesus Christ did. I will take relationship over religion any day! I revel in the reality of the resurrection – the cross is bare, the tomb is empty and our Savior lives! Join me this Easter in really celebrating this incredible truth~