August 14

Written by Bill Grandi on August 14th, 2023

I had a dream once of playing professional baseball. Like most kids growing up near Pittsburgh, it was either baseball or football. I latched onto baseball. I loved it when my dad would take us to a Sunday doubleheader at Forbes Field where I could watch the Pirates play whomever.  I was at a game and that was all that counted. That dream died when I realized I wasn’t good enough but I still loved the game of baseball. (I had that same dream about basketball. Other than a cranky back and old knees, you can see where that got me!). I took up cycling in the 70s and became more serious in the 80s. I can no longer play baseball or basketball, but I can still cycle! 🙂 I get my kicks now watching my grandson play baseball and football.

Several years ago my brother gave me a book called Sermon on the Mound by Michael O’Connor. I recently decided to get the book off the shelf and read it in its entirety. Mr. O’Connor had/has a love affair with baseball. Early on in his book, Mr. O’Connor was writing about his love for baseball and its importance in his life. He wrote something which struck me:

“Organized religion, ironically, had a hand in my spiritual undoing. I think God is as comfortable with religion as the Rockettes are in Levi’s. That’s because, although He is interested in our buildings, our financial stewardship, our liturgy-all those things that hold an appropriate place within the fellowship and kingdom of God-He’s not hung up on them. God is primarily concerned with relationship. He love us, not our stuff. He longs for us to return to Him that same love.” (p.20-21)

There are discussions about religion vs relationship going on all the time. For or against. While religion is a term used in church vernacular, it carries a weight around with it that is hard to bear. It speaks of rules and regulations, of heavy-handedness, of misery.

Relationship, on the other hand, carries with it a freshness, a closeness, an openness determined not by “have to” but by “want to.” Because of that thinking, I would most definitely agree with Mr. O’Connor. I would much rather have a relationship with Jesus than a religion.

What say you? Even deeper, what would you say you have?


6 Comments so far ↓

  1. Ryan S. says:

    Religion vs Relationship is a discussion I have been having with myself for some time. I think the difference, as you state, comes down to the want to vs feeling like I have to. I never want my kids to feel like they “have” to come for a visit. I feel like God is the same way. I think the idea of lukewarm or on fire speaks volumes to this. I do think that out of the desire for relationship, other things will come from that to the outside viewer may look religious… Prayer, Reading my Bible, Going to a Sunday Service, Helping in the community. These aren’t religious activities… Most of the time, they are simply a desire to spend more time in my Father’s arms.

    • Bill Grandi says:

      I think you hit on something Ryan in your comment “to the outside viewer.” We know when we are doing something because we want to and want to serve the Father in some way-big or small. We need to “do” to be seen by the Father not someone else.

  2. gail says:

    I think that the word religion can bring about the wrong intentions and meaning to the culture about who and why we do certain things. When anyone ask me what religious group I am a part of, I always say, I am a Christ follower who believes in Jesus Christ as my Savior. The church I belong to is OVCF, because they rely on the Bible as the absolute truth from God. My goal and what I hope for is that my actions and what I do, backs up that I love Christ and that I live for Him. I really think the culture has ruined the meaning of religion, and spiritual, the culture has gummed down the meanings to a point that has damaged what God intended those words to represent about Christ followers.

    • Bill Grandi says:

      I like your answer Gail to what you say when someone asks you the question. And I also agree that the culture has dumbed down religion to such a “nub” that true religion (which James talks about is) is unrecognizable.

  3. Cheryl says:

    Oh, how this post resonated with me! My family and I have been through a lot concerning this, and I can say that leaving legalistic “organized religion” drew us closer to Jesus than anything else ever has. I know that sounds odd, but it is true. May He bless you always, Pastor Bill.

    • Bill Grandi says:

      Doesn’t sound strange to me at all Cheryl. That is what I am a proponent of. Leave the “organized religion” and draw close to Jesus. And oh, I’m glad you left it behind.