coffee with Jesus

Religion Doesn’t Save Souls, Jesus Does.

Before I was all in for Jesus, a term that still feels a little strange on my tongue, I was a leetle curious about Christianity.  I had a limited understanding of God and what he was all about, minimal exposure to church, and almost no biblical knowledge to stand on.  As far as religious goes, I was far from it.

 Which is probably okay because…

Religion doesn’t save souls.

Jesus does.

So if you have a sour taste in your mouth about religion rules, sister, I did too.

Religion had always pointed its finger at me, but then Jesus used that finger to beckon me closer.  Religion said I had to improve before I joined in, but then Jesus said come as you are.  Religion told me that I have to look the part, but then Jesus promised he cared more about my heart.

Long before we were sharing a last name, my husband and I were sharing an address.  Living in sin in one of the most outward and culturally acceptable ways, we weren’t too worried at the time about eternal salvation.  Though we had both had varying levels of “church exposure”, we weren’t interested in being a part of any church any time soon.

We obviously had some sinning to do first.

But as sometimes happens when you get older and wiser and ready to settle down, you begin to consider things that seemed unnecessary before.  One of those things was a Sunday morning ritual.  Travis had popped the question, and I had suddenly grown quite quite intrigued about the God I planned to be married in front of, in just a few short months.

So we went to church.

Sitting straight up in the wooden pews, wearing our Sunday best and singing quietly while the organ played, I looked like a good enough girl.  Or at least a bad girl trying her best to fake a good enough girl life.  It was beyond uncomfortable.  I was acutely aware that most people in this tiny church knew who I was, if not what I’ve done, and my discomfort stemmed from that truth, as much as anything else.

That’s conviction.

When it came time to say I do, I naturally assumed that the church we had infrequented, which was the only church we’d stepped into in years, would be the little, white, steepled building we would wed in.

Not because I felt like it was my church.

But because I felt like it was God’s.

I felt wrong, apparently. 

When we inquired about our upcoming nuptials being held there, we were informed that because we were already living together, we would not be allowed to stand at the front of that particular church and commit the rest of our lives together before the Lord.

We were too…sinful?

That’s condemnation.

Maybe you’ve felt that way before?

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If church is a gathering of people, then the people’s rules said to me:

  • You’re not good enough to be here.
  • You are too bad for our church.
  • You’re a bigger sinner than the rest of us who go here.
  • If we can see your sin, that makes you worse than those of us who’s sins are secretive.
  • You need to live better before you can belong.
  • Prove yourself to us because that’s what matters.
  • Keep your sins to yourself.
  • Our rules are more important than God’s love and grace.

So, we found another church to be married in.

And it would be seven years before we’d go back to church (ir)regularly again.

For someone who had spent her whole life searching for validation and self-worth and consistently coming up short, it seemed fitting.  At the time, I didn’t even wrestle with the fact that we weren’t allowed; I agreed.  They’re right, I’m not good enough for church.  Why should I taint their sinless building with my wicked transgressions?

I knew enough to know that church people belong in church and the rest of us just…don’t.

Except, what if we do?

Does Jesus classify us by our sin, by the level of sin or the obviousness of sin, or does he just classify us, one in the same, in that we are all sinners in need of a savior?  Is there any sin that’s hidden enough to be okay enough to give the sinner cause enough to stand before our Almighty God and pledge that they are less sinful than their sister in Christ?  

Or are we all equally dependent upon his amazing grace and mercy?

Romans 3:10 reminds us,

“There is no one righteous, not even one.” 

Romans 3:22-24 goes on to say,

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe.  There is no difference between Jew and Gentile {sinner and sinner}, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

But I didn’t know those verses at the time.  In fact, I didn’t know any verses, at the time, or what the bible said about people like me.  People like all of us. 

That is, perhaps, the scariest part about Christians rigidly following human ordained rules: they push away people who don’t know any better.  And really, is it more important to save the lost or to satisfy the saved? 

Our being married in that church wouldn’t have made it any less sacred for the next person, any more than my walking in hungover made anyone else drunk.  And getting married and no longer “living in sin” outwardly, did not change a thing about who I was inwardly.

Only Jesus can do that.

But Jesus had been taken out of that decision, and unfortunately, that decision took us out of the church.

It wasn’t the church’s fault that we were sinning.  Feeling convicted is very different from feeling condemned.  In today’s world, who can live up to the idea that it’s all or nothing?  Who would be good enough, if good enough required perfection?  Who could turn to God as an adult, if their young adult lives screamed of brokenness and confusion– and then rejection?  If you could ruin your chances of being a good, decent, follower of Christ, who could be his disciples?  

No, I don’t wish that they had refrained from pointing out our sin.  I only wish they had refrained from making it seem like our sin was worse than anyone else’s.  Hear me when I say, this is not an anti-church post, or even an anti-this particular church post.

It’s a pro-grace post.  It’s a pro-let’s remember what’s important post.

So here’s the big takeaway, my scorned Christian compadre: don’t walk away from God because you were pushed away by man.  Don’t turn from the truth because you were told a lie.  Don’t give up on your relationship with Jesus because you can’t understand people’s relationship with religion.

If one church wasn’t ready for you, try another…because Jesus always is!

And when you feel too bad, sister, remember this promise from Galatians 5:1, 

So Christ has truly set us free.  Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”

Have you ever experienced being pushed away from church?  Have you tried again?  Why or why not?

 

2 thoughts on “Religion Doesn’t Save Souls, Jesus Does.”

  1. So refreshing to hear! I know I will have an opportunity to share this truth with someone who has been hurt by the church like you were. But you’re right. We can’t stop searching. There are churches that would have celebrating your beautiful choice To marry instead of painting fingers at sin. Thank you Noel!

    Like

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