The Difference Between Being Religious And Being Christian

On my way home from church yesterday, I decided to stop for gas. I didn’t want to, but given that the station near my church is cheaper than just about anywhere and that I likely couldn’t go the whole week without gas, I though the responsible thing would be to fill the tank.

The problem was, when I got out to pump the gas, I locked my car, with my keys inside. And my cell phone. And my AAA card. Now that last is very significant. I hate to admit it, but I’ve had some experience locking my keys in my car before, and boy, AAA is invaluable, and the third-party service person they send is quick and efficient.

But you need to call the AAA Roadside Service representative first.

I wasn’t too worried; just annoyed with myself for doing such a dumb thing. I mean, I was at a gas station, in broad daylight. My car, sadly, was blocking one of their pumps, but I thought that would encourage the attendant to help me so I’d free up the area.

This, that, and the other happened—I won’t bore you with the particulars. The short of it is, we couldn’t find the number for AAA. It’s printed right there on the card, but remember, mine was locked in the car with my keys. And cell phone. Finally I started asking customers in the little mini-mart, and then those getting gas, if they had a AAA card. I just needed the number!

One older guy said he didn’t have one but he could ask his friend Anne. He pulled out his cell phone, so I thought he was going to put the request to the computer. No, he actually called someone. Said he needed her to stop what she was doing and get the number. She did, he wrote it down, programmed his phone, then let me use it to talk to the person I needed to. In less than half an hour, a service guy showed up and had my car open in under a minute.

Meanwhile, I had a chance to talk with the stranger who had lent me his phone. While we were still trying to hunt for the number to AAA, he said some very disparaging remarks about people of other ethnicities.

You need to know, I live in a multiracial area of interlocking communities. When I gave the AAA person my info, I wasn’t even sure what city I was in. All that to say, on any given day, you might interact with people from three or four different ethnicities who live in various nearby pockets dominated by Koreans, Tai, Hispanics, Chinese, Vietnamese, and more. So some of the people I asked if they owned a AAA card, didn’t speak English. No big deal and no surprise. They kindly allowed me to ask my question to one of their party sitting in the back seat of the car who did speak English.

But the man who was contacting Anne had nothing good to say about anyone from another race, and he had some really bad things to say. Imagine my horror when he said something about going to church! Really! I thought I was going to be sick.

And then, as the conversation continued, it came out that he belonged to the Christian Scientists. He went to his car and brought back some literature (like a used Sunday school quarterly for those of you who have been around long enough to know what those are) he wanted to give me. It had his writing in the blanks and I didn’t know what might be there. I declined as politely as I could. But he went on to tell me about the founder, Mary Baker Eddy, who really wanted a religion of love, so she started Christian Science and it was all about being good.

Two things that initially seem incongruous. First this man said some really nasty things about other people groups. The entire group of people several times, and then about an individual in a different people group at another time.

Second, he was kind to me. He even waited in his parked car until the service person was about to drive up. He came over to where I was waiting to say that AAA had called (since I had done so from his phone, he got the message) to confirm that the service guy was just moments away. The man left before I even thought to say more than thank you.

Why, I wondered? How could he be so awful and yet so kind?

And then it hit me. Religions that teach you are to be good, actually accomplish that. The man did a good deed, and I suspect he did it thinking this was his religious duty. But he didn’t have Christ who transforms lives and changes people.

I couldn’t help but compare his religion with what my pastor taught just that morning—all about community and how all are welcome at Christ’s table because Jesus came for the sick, not the well. The people who think they’re well, didn’t want to come to Him. But all who knew they were broken and in need, came gladly.

The question the Pharisees asked the disciples was, “Why does your Master eat with sinners?” They wanted religion to be an exclusive, us-not-them club. They wanted to use their religion to feel superior, to divide, to put others down.

Jesus does just the opposite. He invites the Matthews and the Nicodemuses and the women caught in adultery and the ones too ashamed to go to the well with the “good” women. He wants them to come and follow Him so that he can heal their brokenness. He wants to give them new life, living water, the bread of heaven. He wants to bring transformation to their lives.

Being religious might mean that a person does good things once in a while. Being a Christian means a person has begun the transforming process to become like Jesus Christ.

Published in: on March 12, 2018 at 5:00 pm  Comments (6)  
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  1. Uh honey…I’m new here, but this guy only helped you because you’re and older white American (I assume). You have written this account like this guy is perfectly capable of being good to others some of the time, but not all of the time because he’s religious rather than Christian. No. He’s most likely completely incapable of helping anyone from another race and if you hadn’t been an older, white American, you’d have probably gotten the cold shoulder, a sneer, etc as well.

    I’m really shocked that as an all inclusive Christian you didn’t call this guy out for being a racist. I get that you were grateful for being on the receiving end of his “kindness”, but you witnessed those other people being abused (whether behind the back or straight to their face, it’s still abuse) and you didn’t advocate for them. As much as you may hope that Jesus will change lives, individuals who don’t tolerate prejudice can work a lot quicker.


    • Welcome, Catherine. Glad you jumped in and left a comment.

      I guess I wasn’t clear in the article. The point I wanted to make is that this guy is not going to change because his religion was based on his “good” works. He wasn’t changed inside, and he saw no inconsistency in his talking about a church of love and good, but not extending the same to others who weren’t like him.

      Just so you know, I did “advocate” for others as best as the situation would allow. I wish I had been outspoken about Jesus. I’m under no illusion why he helped me. But as Pastor Randy said below, this man was not going to change his ideas, even if we had an in-depth conversation, because what he needs is transformation, not more information.

      The Spirit of God can change the hardest heart, and He’s the only one that can change someone so steeped in hatred, resentment, anger, distrust. No amount of re-education or argumentation or even verses of Scripture will do more than make the man maybe adjust his outward demeanor and expression.

      For me it was sad knowing that he likely drove away feeling good about himself for helping me out. God used him, but I think his good deeds are like the sacrifices of Israel in the Old Testament that God said He hated. Because He wants a relationship with us, not a wrongly motivated act of kindness.



  2. Well said, Becky. I’m so sorry for your troubles, but I was thinking you are so lucky to live in the city! Thirty minutes for help to arrive? That’s a real blessing. I’d be waiting a week, at least.

    I’m glad you wrote this. I really wrestle with Christians who are doing good things and yet being horrible people at the same time. That kind of thing just messes with my head. Jesus is about building character from the inside out, not good works followed by foul works followed by good works, as if it can all go on a scale and eventually balance out in your favor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, IB, there are advantages in living in the city. I actually consider one such advantage the multi-ethnic flavor of the area. But an abundance of available services certainly is another one.

      When I first thought this man was going to claim he was a Christian, I was heartsick. How could he, I thought, how could he? It did make me think that there are likely people who say they’re Christians and hold his same views.

      But John is so clear in his first letter that if we say we love God and hate our brothers, we’re liars. (‘If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.’ 1 John 4:20)

      If they are truly Christians, God will convict them of their sin, I believe. And if they aren’t, I pray they stop identifying with Christ and own their own attitudes and behavior. Because I know that the pretend Christians contribute to the hatred the world has for believers and for Christ Himself (or the false image so many are beginning to have of Him).

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by, IB.


      Liked by 1 person

  3. The hypocrisy of religion….your mind and heart were open to a teaching moment from Jesus…great lesson for all of us….by the way, pointing out that man’s racism and hypocrisy (a religion of “love” while putting down people different from him…really?) would not have changed him. But even without being aware, that Christian Scientist was in the presence of Jesus…and with Jesus, you never know what will happen next….and yes, my annual membership with AAA is recovered by them sending someone to unlock my car…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amen, Pastor Randy. I found it kind of funny that he characterized me to his friend on the phone as “a nice lady.” But later I thought maybe God can use even that.

      Heheh. I was shocked also to find out that not every driver had AAA. I thought, surely . . .


      Liked by 1 person

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