Years ago, an old friend said she was very, very surprised that I had “turned religious.” But that it looked great on me.
(We finally met up for coffee before we turned senile. That was our private joke.)
She caught me by surprise. I chuckled and said, “Oh. But I’m not religious at all.”
She gave me a blank look.
I elucidated — “In fact, religion didn’t do much for me. The rituals. The traditions. The prescribed piety left me cynical. But Jesus is different. The Person, I mean. He has made all the difference.”
“What?” She asked. “Religion and Jesus — aren’t they interchangeable?”
I said, “No. They’re worlds apart. And that’s where a lot of people have completely missed the point. Religion makes you invent your own god. Jesus is the real thing.”
“What?!! Gosh. That sounds sacrilegious.”
Many people take Jesus for granted. The call Him God. But they don’t really relate to Him as God. THE God — the only One, really, Who can bring them to heaven. In fact, to add insult to injury, many people believe that “your god doesn’t have to be Jesus.” They think it’s eclectic and esoteric to say that “you’re OK as long as you believe there’s a god.”
In fact, many people pray to others before they pray to Jesus. As if the other options are better.
Sometimes people think of Jesus as a “martyr” rather than the Son of God. We can’t even begin to comprehend the excruciating, unbelievably painful, barbaric, shameful death that He subjected Himself to, on a tree — which later evolved into a cross.
Hence, quite mechanically, we often say that “Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins” without really understanding the kind of sacrifice this entailed.
Much like a nurse can be clinical and detached when she talks about a burn victim’s skin grafts and multiple surgeries — without having the faintest idea of how harrowing and indescribable that kind of pain is.
The emphasis on rituals, religious activities, and traditions can very efficiently take my eyes off Jesus. Much like watching a grandiose stage production where the elaborate sets and costumes would distract me from the lead actor. To the point where he becomes just another prop. Just another decoration to complete the splendid setting on stage.
Jesus can often get lost in translation. Jesus can often be misplaced in the details. Many people have reduced Jesus to a symbol — rather than relating to Him as an loving, living, all-powerful, all-wise, all-knowing, all-present, perfect person Who IS God.
If there’s anyone we should never, ever take for granted — it’s Jesus. Well, because whether we realize it or not, He’s not just a martyr. He’s not just an option we can pray to.
He’s not just a name we can spit out when we’re surprised, frustrated, or cursing at someone.
Jesus is God. Our only way to heaven. To say there’s another way is to court disaster.
Because anyone who believes that there’s another way (other than Jesus) will someday find himself in hell. Irredeemably so. For eternity.
We simply cannot afford to take Jesus for granted because — while He’s currently maintaining a low profile — the ultimate reality is that He has complete power over all of us, over everything.
That truth never changes no matter how clueless, ignorant, or misled we are about life’s true state of affairs.
I explained all this to my friend, over coffee. It wasn’t a long conversation. But it was undoubtedly an interesting one.
Before we polished off our desserts, I had to give a little clap and do imaginary cartwheels.
Well, you see, my friend ended our coffee conversation by surrendering her life to Jesus.
She decided to stop taking Him for granted. She gave Him first place in her life.
And, yes. She stopped being religious.