I Am Not A Christian

I Am Not A Christian May 14, 2024

Author on beach
Original Photo of and by Benjamin Raven Pressley

I know the title of this article is going to freak some of you out…but hear me out. I am a follower of Christ but I do not like any religious label. Jesus did not call his followers Christians. He called them disciples and friends (John 15:15-17). The early church called themselves ‘The Way’ (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). The term “Christian” is only used three times in the Bible, in Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:1. It was originally a derogatory term that meant ‘little Christs’. As in ‘Who are these people, do they think they are ‘little Christs’? And it kind of stuck and grew from there in importance. Jesus didn’t come to start another religion called Christianity, he came to connect us back to the Creator he called Father and a relationship with him. I do not like being called a ‘christian’ because that can pretty much mean anything anybody wants it to mean from corrupt religions to political affiliation. I understand the term and I tolerate it but I don’t prefer it. I find strength in many philosophies but I also have learned at the core of them all is the one creator who bridged the gap of righteousness and spirituality in the expression of himself as Jesus Christ. Jesus’ words and teachings fulfill every religious and spiritual pursuit if a sincere seeker of truth will listen with his own ears rather than the voice of religion.

I believe Jesus fulfilled all religious longings and pursuits of truth (Matthew 5:17-20). And yet it is not about fulfilling the goals of all religions, per se. It is about truth and being free. Religions are but shadows of a greater thing. Most would rather remain in the shadows of their religions and traditions. It is like trying to satisfy thirst. Sure you can drink lots of things and some may allay thirst a little but Jesus’ teachings fulfill and quench the spiritual thirst. Yet most would rather walk around with a full cup of that which cannot possibly satisfy. Like a great philosopher once said, ‘You can’t drink of my tea till you empty your cup‘.
If the goal of the religious practitioner is to find the truth they will abandon anything contrary to Jesus’ teachings (notice I did not say convert to Christianity). That may sound arrogant at first but I think any honest seeker of truth will be able to conscientiously compare their beliefs or their religion’s beliefs to the teachings of Jesus and be able to see what is right in their religion and what is wrong and figure out the next logical step. “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9). Spiritual development is after all a weeding out. It is abandoning the washboard for the washing machine.
There are a lot of religious movements saying this is right and that is wrong. If you tried to follow them all it would be worse than being lost in the woods. I don’t get mixed up in all the movements. God is Spirit. I think he can express himself any way he wants. Different cultures experienced him in different ways. He has gone by many different names in different cultures. In this modern day and time, we have the Bible at the core of his revelation of who he is. In the Bible, he reveals his character and in Jesus and the Apostles, we have the most plausible fulfilled revelation of who God is and how we should live. Unfortunately, through time people have made a religion out of the Bible and I do not believe God ever intended us to be bound under a religion but free to have a relationship with him and that is as individualized and diverse as there are individualized and diverse people. I do not believe God is male, female, animal, or plant and yet he is all these things and more. The fact is he is a spirit “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). He is complete in and of himself. I also don’t believe it is a matter of our good list being longer than our bad list to go to heaven. I don’t think any of us are that good if we are honest with ourselves that is why we need to believe in a truth that is outside ourselves to guide us and as we enter into him and he into us he guides us in this life with no fear of the life to come. That will take care of itself in its time. If we are in a relationship with him then he will take us from where we are to where we need to be and that journey will be different for everyone.

Person trapped in a bubble
Trapped in a bubble Flickr

Every day we live we look around us, we read the news and we hear about more and more human beings becoming complacent and being rocked to sleep by the propaganda of this world. We feed on the government and world system’s tit when we could be eating meat. The generations of explorers and heroes are fading away and becoming only stories and metaphors of another time and don’t fit into the framework of the self-serving bubble modern-day society is surrounding us with. The average human ignores that the bubble is tightening and the air is getting thinner and how crowded it has become. The solution to most is infighting the people in the bubble who are as trapped as they are. Yet let someone arise that has a pin to pop the bubble and everyone goes crazy and curses that individual and they yell and drown out his voice when he is only trying to set the people free. This culture would rather kill the deliverer than be set free. They would rather remain in their illusion that the bubble is good and is only there for our protection and ignore that it gets ever tighter and ever harder to breathe. It is time to pop the bubble people. It is time to free fall from its boundaries and limitations and land firmly on our feet and begin bursting the bubbles of others that have them bound. There is an enemy of our own mind, there is a jailer of our own creation that keeps us from being free. Only when we walk out the cell door of our self-imposed limitations will we realize that the door to our cells has been open all along. Only then will we see this world progress as it should spiritually, emotionally, financially, health-wise and technologically as it should. Only when we shed the shackles of culture, poverty, hatred, gender, religion, greed and race will we truly be all that we can be.
We are spiritual beings that have a soul that lives in a body. Human beings are capable of deeper thinking, enlightened thinking, and understanding that cannot be tested in a laboratory. Our spirit is crying out that we are so much more than our five senses and when we ignore it we get the ills of society. It becomes all about temporary satisfaction, instant gratification and fulfilling lust when we could have love. Human beings have the power to choose. We do not have to be puppets whose strings are being pulled by the modern-day selfish culture. Take time in every situation to look a little deeper, think a little deeper, and listen to that still small voice that challenges us not to react the way we initially may want to. Deep calls to deep. Don’t settle for less. Be the superior human being you were meant to be. Be the world shaker and the dream maker. Fly on the wings of eagles rather than scratching around the chicken yard. Look up and think about how high you can fly today. Looking down and settling for the scratch of this world will only keep you penned up when you could be flying. As for me and my house…we are gonna fly!
The modern-day institution we know as ‘church’ is, in a way, history repeating itself with the same complicated, controlling institution the Pharisees had going. Enter a young rabbi that was more than a man, he was the Son of God, rocking the boat of tradition actually doing ministry not sanctioned by the temple. Enter the first-century church rocking entire governments. Rome didn’t care how many religions there were as long as they played along and didn’t cause any trouble, as long as they could control them like they did the Jewish temple and traditions. God broke out of the imaginary box that people imagined they held Him in and He will always break out of the box. God will always shatter and challenge our comfortable illusions.
There is the difference between religion and relationship. As I said earlier, Jesus did not come to this earth to start another religion. There were plenty of those to choose from in his time on this planet and there still are today, unfortunately. God wishes for us to have a relationship with him. Our relationship with God MUST be intentional otherwise it is not a relationship at all. Are not worldly relationships intentional? In worldly relationships, we understand that the quality of our relationship is affected by how intentionally or not we invest in it. Why is it that so many deny this applies to their relationship with God, including Christians? It is because they do not have a relationship with God. They have a religion. Anytime people try to create a system of serving God they fall out of relationship and intimacy with God.

Artwork by Mandy Strickland Gilley. Owner Benjamin Raven Pressley

The short of it is this: Truth by design should set one free not put one in a cage. To try to contain truth and conform it to captivity only produces other caged animals. To try to contain truth is cruel, it is against its natural design and eventually will only weaken as it loses its wild side. To try to contain truth in a temple or to even try to organize it under one roof/one people/one set of beliefs is like caging a wild animal. Real truth is big enough to cover all of creation. If a message is truly the truth then no temple made by the hands of any created being will be able to contain it.
In conclusion, let me just say again, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Do not confuse me with stereotypes or group me with corrupt megachurches and crooked TV evangelists. I am not religious. I am not self-righteous or holier-than-thou. I have a relationship with the Creator. I do life just like everyone else. Sometimes I fail and sometimes I succeed in living up to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles. I am human. I like who I am. I love and treat all life with respect. I am not weak. I am a warrior. I will stand up for and defend my family and the innocent. I treat everyone with respect and expect the same. I burn bridges behind me with enthusiasm and refuse to live in the past. I learn from my mistakes and I move forward and let nothing or no one hinder me from doing so. If you can live with that then you are my friend.

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