It was a sunny afternoon and I was in grade 11. I stayed after school to help set up for the sports banquet that was to take place later that evening. I had been invited, because I was receiving an award, but I had also been asked to say grace before the meal. I considered this a huge honour, and I was pretty excited. I had worked all week on what I was going to say, and had practiced it, and written it out on a cue card. As I was spreading out a table cloth, the coordinator (a grade 12 student), came over to me and asked, "would you mind if ______ said the grace instead of you? He just seems more religious."
I couldn't believe it, I was shocked. Of course I said I didn't mind, because at that time in my life I didn't often speak my mind. I wasn't hurt that someone else was going to do it, or that I would not get to present my hard work, or that I wouldn't be in the lime light. I passed my cue card to the new "grace-sayer" and was devastated that I wasn't considered "religious enough" to say grace. I asked myself many questions,
What am I doing wrong?
What am I not doing enough of?
How is it that this guy is seen as more religious?
What does this mean for the world's view of a religious person?
For a long time I beat myself up, but I'm able to see that the situation I was in was a blessing, because I don't have a religion, I have a relationship with Jesus.
("Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. he anointed us, set his seal of ownership on is, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." -1 Corinthians 1:21-22)
I was given a compliment, saying that I was not like the Pharisees.
Quick Hebrew lesson: Pharisee comes from the Hebrew word "separatists", meaning "the separated ones". They meant to follow God, but got so caught up in obeying the law, and being seen praying in public places that they did not take in Jesus' teaching.
The coordinator was COMPLETELY right. This other guy did seem more religious than me, and you know what? He was probably better at public speaking, but that doesn't matter to me now, because I know that being a committed follower of Jesus means more than being asked to say grace. It means more than being considered "religious" by peers, and it definitely means more than praying in public. It means having a relationship, and saying grace or not saying grace at a sports banquet does not define my relationship with Christ. Can I get an "Amen"?