I lost my religion years ago and I’m doing so much better now. I’m not exaggerating to make a point. I really mean it. Sometimes people will say to me, “What do you mean when you say you lost your religion?” The answer is simple.
Understanding the true meaning of the word “religion” will help clarify my statement. The English word is taken from the Latin word relgio, originally meaning “obligation” or “bond.” It was probably derived from the verb religare , which means to “tie tight.” (Taken from The Dictionary of Word Origins, by John Ayto.)
The origin of the word “religion” explains its problem. Religion ties people up tight, obligating them to a particular set of standards and behavior. In time the word became associated with the obligation men had toward ancient gods.
In modern terminology, the word denotes the idea of performing certain actions with the goal in mind of gaining divine favor. Religion is a greenhouse for legalism because it focuses on duty and performance. It puts the duty on man to reach God by his actions. It puts a bond on people, consequently leaving them in bondage.
Authentic Christianity is different from religion in many ways. A recent comment made about boxing illustrates what I mean. Somebody said, “To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there’s no music, no choreography and the dancers hit each other.” His comparison between boxing and ballet illustrates the union that exists between authentic Christianity and legalistic religion. There is none.
Authentic Christianity is the grounded in the gospel . The word “gospel” means “good news.” What is the good news? It’s that we don’t have to try to reach God by our actions anymore, but that it is God’s actions that unite us to Him. It’s the good news that God has reached down to us in the person of Jesus Christ. It’s the good news that the cross and empty tomb were sufficient to cause God to tear up the score card on your life and to call the game over, with you as a winner.
All we need is to trust in the finished work of Christ. That’s it – nothing else. “What should we do that we might work the works of God?” the disciples once asked Jesus. The answer Jesus gave sounds strange to religious ears. He said, “This is the work of God – that you believe on Him who He has sent” (John 6:28-29). Believe – that’s it.
“Aren’t we to do certain things?” some might ask. The answer is that we will do certain things, not because we’re trying to score points with God, but because it’s a part of our spiritual DNA to produce godly works. Others may mistakenly think that we are behaving religiously, but we aren’t. We are simply acting like who we are – containers and conduits of divine life.
Religion will tie you down. Jesus Christ will set you free. Religion will obligate you to work for God, but Jesus will liberate you to serve because of love. Religion will leave you exhausted. Jesus will invigorate your spirit with divine life continuously.
Yes, I lost my religion. As a result, I’ve come to know Jesus intimately. I wouldn’t trade that knowledge for all the religion in the world. I still do many things that probably look religious to others, but that’s not the case. I’m just enjoying Jesus and doing what I want (which happens to coincide with what He wants).
Do you need to lose your religion? You’ll find yourself much better off when you find your life in Christ. Go ahead, do it. Say good-bye to the bondage of being tied up by religious duty and fall into the arms of Jesus Christ. You won’t be sorry.