Daniel McGraw

Midland, USA

Giving up on Religion

Here is an intresting idea. Why don't you just give up on religion? Religion has caused wars. Religion drives people to do crazy things. Religion is just a way of controlling people. These are all things that I have heard often when I am talking with people. Before I get too far, I need to point out, that I am not against religion. On the contrary I am all for it in the right context. My story is simply about me giving up on my ideas on what my religion actually is.

Growing up in west Texas, you never asked anyone if they believe in God. No, you simply asked people what church do you go to. So growing up I was set with this notion that everyone around me was religious and that church was where you had to go every Sunday and that the bible was a book on how to live your life. So I got good at that, because "hey thats what you are supposed to do right?" It was in this setting that I learned about Jesus and how he died on the cross to save us from our sins. Well I knew that I had sinned before so I decided that I needed to accept Christ and try to live a better life in order to earn love from God. So I became a self proclaimed super Christian. I would go to church every Sunday and do everything that our youth group offered. Church camps, mission trips, you name it, you could find me there. 

They say that in university you can find out what you really believe. So I went to my university and got involved in a church very quickly. I had to keep up my life of being a super Christian because I needed to do these things to be right with God. There however was something missing throughout this... love. Not that God didn't love me but I didn't love God. It was this checklist that I had to do. To fix this, I got involved in more and more stuff. I joined a student group that talked about sharing there faith alot. They challenged me to take a class on that and I agreed because hey that is something we are told to do. I didn't want to but it checked another box so I went. From here the teacher asked if I would go on a summer trip that the focus was to grow in that. Again, I couldn't help but to go although I didn't want to at the time. 

So you might be asking yourself "What does this have to do with giving up religion?" Well one hot summer day in Branson, Missouri I was sharing my faith with someone outside of shopping mall. I had already talked about how God had created you and has a wonderful plan for your life but what keeps us from experiencing this is our own imperfections that have separated us from God. I had shared that Jesus Christ came to earth to live the perfect life and die for our imperfections and was in the middle of sharing how all you have to do is accept it when I realized "This is what I believe!" I had always agreed with this but until this point it had not clicked what that actually meant. I had lived my whole life focused on what I thought was the religion of Christianity. I had always thought you had to earn your salvation or relationship with God through faith and works. It had finally clicked though. It is not a check list but a relationship with God that Christianity is all about. That is what I had missed out on. My "religion" was getting in the way of me experiencing that. So at this point I decided to drop my religion and start my relationship with God. 

I started to read my bible, not because I was told to, but because I wanted to know what the God who created me and died for me says. I gave up on the shame that followed me everytime I made a mistake because I am not trying to earn this anymore. It was given to me as a free gift from Christ. A surprising thing happened then, I became a better person. This came from wanting to be more like Christ not because it was a rule to follow. I am far from perfect, I still do bad things, but these do not define me. Jesus paid the ultimate price and took the punishment I deserved and now when God looks at me He sees Christ's holiness and not my mistakes. My life is far from easy but it is filled with so much more freedom that can only be found in Jesus.

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