I have to admit I'm a bit late on this one. I realize that the whole 'Jesus vs. Religion' showdown is sooooo last month, but I think it's worth taking another look at.
Who hasn't thought at one point or another about how great it would be to just have Jesus without all the rules and lists of things we're supposed to do? Why do we need all the rules? Why can't we just have Jesus without all the obligations? Sure, Jesus spoke often about the importance of following His commands (Luke 8:21) but why do we even need religion then? Why do we need labels and definitions? Why can't we just be close to Him and not worry about all the details?
I Want to be Free!
The idea of being 'spiritual but not religious' isn't really a new one. It's also not unique to Christians. I'm convinced that there's something about that idea that sounds attractive to all of us. We don't like to have obligations. We're all about freedom, right?
After all, we're the hook-up culture. We don't need to define our relationships, we'll just have 'close encounters' with no strings attached. Why would we want to define a relationship? Isn't it more fun to just have fun experiences without having to deal with all the other stuff that real relationships require?
We know too well that relationships aren't always easy. Our feelings change way too much to commit to one person . . . right? Why would I want to give my whole heart to someone? What about keeping my options open in case I change my mind later? And besides, we've seen way too many examples of people just getting hurt when these committed relationships fall apart. We see families and marriages ripped apart all the time and we know all too well how bad it hurts.
I wish I could say that I've just seen these fears in other people's lives. The reality is that I myself have spent way too much time running from commitment. I wanted love but I was freaked out by the idea of cutting out all other options.
Then I met Courtney.
I really liked her, I loved hanging out with her, and all of a sudden commitment was no longer just an idea or a 'someday' thing. As I got to know her, I knew that I didn't want any other options. I actually wanted to commit to her. It was the weirdest thing ever. She expected me to spend time with her and I was more than okay with it. She expected me to call her every day and I actually looked forward to it. Instead of feeling repressed or chained down by this committed relationship, I actually felt more free to be myself. The more time I spent with her, the more I realized that I wanted to spend even more time with her. All my fears of commitment seemed ridiculous after I met her. I actually wanted to commit more and more to her.
I was so sure of it that I got down on one knee and told her that I wanted to commit my whole life to her. She thought it was a good idea, so we're getting married in April.
Maybe you really love your faith, or maybe it just seems like a bunch of rules. I don't know what you think of when you hear the word religion. But I do know what it's like to be terrified of committing. I also know that when you've met someone you really fall in love with, of course you'll want to commit to them. You'll want to spend time with them and you'll want to do whatever you can to stay close to them.
That's what our faith, our religion, is all about. The God of the Universe is so committed to you that He sent His only Son so you could know that you are loved. My prayer for you is that you truly encounter Him.
This isn't about committing to a bunch of rules, this is about falling in love.
Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything. -Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S. J.