"Are you religious?"That was the question posed to me by my son's friend who came over to play yesterday. I paused, longer than necessary, since I didn't know how to answer such a potentially loaded question. What did this 10 yr old mean by "religious"? Do I not use electricity or push any buttons on my smartphone during Shabbat? Am I that kind of "religious"? Do I make sure I face a certain direction before I pray? Am I that kind of "religious"? Do I not eat beef because I believe it is from a sacred cow? Am I that kind of "religious"? These type of questions raced through my head while this boy looked at me, waiting for my answer. Apparently I wasn't fast enough for him since he interrupted my brain dialogue with another question, "I mean, do you believe in God?" Ohhhhhhh.....that is a WAY EASIER question to answer! (Whew---dodged a bullet!! ) I was able to reply in a timely manner, "Yes, we believe in God and in Jesus." The conversation then carried on like this:
10 yr old: Oh, so you go to church?
me: Yes we do. We attend on Saturday.
10 yr old: Why? Aren't you suppose to go to church on Sunday?
me: Well, in most countries yes, but not here. What about you? Do you believe in God? (Please note: I didn't ask him if he was religious!)
10 yr old: I'm not atheist. I believe in God, but I don't go to church.
me: Well then maybe you can come sometime with Jad and us to church.
10 yr old: Hmmmm.
Honestly, I do not like the word 'religious'. I prefer the word 'relationship'. I have a relationship with God. I talk to Him, I pray to Him, I meditate on Him, I thank Him, I praise Him, etc. It is not a one-sided relationship, and this is the hard part-- it takes time and effort to listen to God, to read His Scriptures, to obey His teachings.
If a 10 yr old boy had asked me this question in Prague or Costa Rica or Oregon, I'm sure I wouldn't have taken so long to answer. But living in Jerusalem, the focal city of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism (alphabetical order...nothing political here), has made me re-evaluate my view of the word "religious". Maybe it isn't such a scary word after all. It is a powerful word that has been used to throw stones, ignite misunderstanding, and build impenetrable walls. But I am discovering that it can also be a word that builds bridges, encourages mutual respect, and fosters peace.
"Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God."
The Gospel according to Matthew chapter 5, verse 9
Oh dear God, please help me to be a peacemaker, no matter where I am.