A few weeks ago my sister threw an awesome party at her house and my husband, son, and I attended. It was so much fun, and I had a great time listening to the band and talking with people. One interesting conversation was with my brother-in-law. I mentioned that we would be driving home that night (a 2 1/2 hour drive) instead of staying at my sister’s, but the only problem with that was even if I was tired I would feel like I needed to go to church the next morning. He said, “You’re pretty involved in your church. I know you kids weren’t raised in the church, but that at some point you got religion.”
I “got religion.” I’d never thought of it that way before. In some circles it might even be considered a derogatory remark to say someone “got religion.” It brings up images of the super self-righteous person who looks down on others while following all the external rules and regulations themselves. My brother-in-law definitely did not mean it in that way, and I didn’t take it that way. But over the next week or so that phrase stuck in my head and I pondered what it really meant for me.
As I pondered, I realized that there was a point in time when I “got religion.” I didn’t become self-righteous (at least I hope not!). Rather, I came to understand the purpose of religion, and the purpose of Christianity. I “got” religion in the same way that you might “get” how a computer works when someone explains it to you. In other words, I understood what religion – or more appropriately faith – could do in my life.
My favorite Christian author C.S. Lewis once said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” This is how I feel. The whole of the Christian faith helps me to understand the world and the people I encounter in it. It provides me with a framework within which to comprehend the good and the bad that come into my life personally and that I see in the world at large. It defines for me the sinful nature that I see within myself, and provides me with a roadmap to resisting that nature.
I get that the purpose of religion in general is to provide mankind with a connection to our creator, our origins, our past, and with a moral framework within which to relate to one another. Even atheists are looking for a connection to our origins and adhere to some moral framework. We all want to understand where we came from, what our purpose is, and what our future is. Religion attempts to provide all of this, and most major religions do provide a moral framework, a code of conduct that will lead to some sought-after future or afterlife and well as help guide us here and now.
I also “get” how Christianity is different from the other major religions of the world. It is this difference that is such a blessing to me. The difference is simple, and yet so many people miss it, even some who call themselves Christian. It is this: all other religions provide a set of rules that a person must follow to earn their own way to heaven, or nirvana, or to a superior place in the reincarnation pecking order. Some people think that the 10 commandments is the same kind of list, that if you follow those (and all the other rules in the Bible) you can earn your own way to heaven. But if they think that, they miss the point. Christianity is not about what I need to do to earn my own way to heaven. It is about what God did so that I could be with Him in heaven for eternity. He knows I am incapable of following all the rules perfectly and so doesn’t require that I do. His law does provides a moral framework within which we can live together as human beings. But His love and mercy provide so much more.
I do “get religion.” How about you?