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A Faithful Following

A Faithful Following

I grew up not knowing that there was a difference between religion and faith. I actually never realized this difference until I found my own faith last year. After deciding to follow Jesus, I began reading, listening to podcasts, and having conversations with other Christians about what it means to live by faith. What it truly means to follow Jesus. I also started having deep conversations with many of my non-Christian friends, who shared with me their own upbringing, and their own understanding of what God was all about.

Some of you may still have that question. What is God really all about?

If people ask you if you’re religious what do you say?

If you grew up in a traditional church, you probably have an idea of what it means to have faith which aligns with your idea of what it means to be “religious.” These ideas aren’t necessarily wrong, but they are just that, ideas. They are man-made definitions, or understandings, that were created by religious figures, a long long time ago. Religion itself was also created by man, not God.

Religious figures took God’s word and created a culture that was structured by rules and regulations. Since the beginning of “religion” there have been a disconnect between God’s intent and his followers. Religion suggests that we must live by a set of guidelines, abide by rules, and ultimately carry shame if we don’t measure up. I’ve come to recognize that this concept, the creation of religion, has really set us up for failure.

As human beings we are by nature flawed and incapable of living a perfect life. We are incapable of meeting all these rules and regulations. Because God never created us to fit in to that type of structure. God didn’t place us on earth so we could meet his standards and be shunned if we don’t. Religion created this idea, and God responded by sending Jesus to earth to show us a different way.

I’ve reflected on this a lot as I celebrated Easter. I gave thanks to the sacrifice Jesus made for all of us. And I reflected on the reason why Jesus was placed on earth to begin with.

If you’re not sure, I’ll try to put this in a simple, yet tangible way. Jesus was sent here to connect us to the father and to connect us to each other. He was sent to build a relationship with us, by not only telling, but showing us that we are ALL capable of living a faith filled life. Regardless of sin, of rule following, of “religious” upbringing, we are on an equal playing field. Because we were made equal in God’s image.

Now I can’t speak for everyone, but that understanding still leaves me quite speechless.

Imagine this field as if it represents the entire world. And in this field stands many different groups of people who have been divided by religion. For the sake of this example, let’s say these people represent the different denominations. They all believe in God but hold slightly different guidelines for how they run their church. Different interpretations of God’s word essentially. Jesus stands in the middle of this field and picks a person from each group to go with him. The crowd is confused, how can all these people be chosen by Jesus, by God, if they aren’t playing by the same rules?

That’s because God never intended for these rules to divide us. He intended for them to guide us as we walk in our faith, as one being, as one following.

Now picture this field full of people, from different upbringings, but they are no longer separated into different groups. They are holding hands and walking with Jesus. They are faithfully following Jesus, regardless of their pasts, their mistakes, or their sins.

As a collective, they have allowed Jesus to guide them, and religion to no longer divide them.

This imagery is giving me chills as I’m writing this.

I truly believe if we can let go of our pasts and see beyond the “religious” rules that have condemned so many, we will be set free from shame and guilt. Set free to live as Jesus lived. Set free from religious division.

THIS is what God is all about.

And this is what God was picturing when he sent Jesus to earth. He wanted the world to see differently. He wanted the people to come together with love and forgiveness and grace in their hearts. He didn’t want us to be separated anymore.

Coming to faith has allowed me to see others the way God intended, in a way that religion never allowed me to see.

What would happen if we looked at the “rules” as a value set, instead of a law book?

What would happen if the word religion no longer existed and, in its place, stood a collective? A group of imperfect people, choosing to walk together in faith. Choosing to follow Jesus as God intended.

I imagine this would create something quite spectacular. Almost like a massive parade that would sweep

across the nations and leave people in awe of the Jesus way.

Goodbye religion.

Hello to a faithful following.

Kerstan Cooper