I was watching ESPN First Take the other day and “embracing the debate” and enjoying a discussion about Ray Lewis and his career. Ray Lewis came under a lot of scrutiny, and still is, about the murder he allegedly was involved in, some deer antler spray (which most hunters use, but I think it smells funny…might be a different spray), and his faith. Ray Lewis’ faith is not what I am talking about today; that may be for another day. However, a statement that came from the mouth of one of the debaters is what we will be discussing in the following paragraphs.
Stephen A. Smith, a sports journalist, was speaking about Lewis and his display of faith and his Christianity. Stephen shared he was a Christian, but not devout. My ears perked up when I heard this because I was confused. What’s the difference? Is there a difference? Should there be a difference? What has caused this differentiation? Is it our fault? Is it my fault (even if I don’t know Stephen A. I still feel responsible in some way)? I know these are a lot of questions, but hopefully I will answer them all here and also make some people feel better about their relationship with Christ.
Before moving forward we need to understand the meaning of devout. The definition given by Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “devoted to a pursuit, belief, or mode of behavior”. This is an interesting definition in regards to the Christian faith. We, as Christians, should always be pursuing our God as He pursues us, our belief is centered on Christ and His teachings, and our mode of behavior is defined by what Christ demonstrated for us in His ministry. If this is the case, then we should all be devout.
Unfortunately, according to Stephen A. and most likely others out there, there is a difference between being a Christian and being a devout Christian. I am submitting that this is not the case. Maybe, to some, there is something that makes someone seem more devout than another. Maybe because someone goes to Church, reads the Bible regularly, and sits in prayer for hours before starting the day, they are more devout? If this is the case, then I am merely a Christian.
I believe Scripture teaches otherwise. James, the brother of Jesus, shares in his book what real religion looks like in chapter 1 verse 27 when he says “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Maybe this is what someone who is devout really looks like?
We need to be reading the word of God, we need to be praying to Him regularly, and we should be actively involved with a fellowship of believers (Heb. 10:25), but that does not make us devout. Being a Christian should make us devout. Living a life of humility, willing to serve, willing to sacrifice, and willing to live for the Glory of God. Nothing more will make us devout. We can know the Gospel and we can go to Church, but unless we live the Gospel and be the church we are missing the point. A devout Christian is one who lives to love the way Christ loved. If we aren’t doing that, then maybe we need to question whether or not we are truly Christian at all. There is no differentiation between devout Christian and Christian, it’s a question of whether you are truly Christian or not. If you are one, then there is no question of devotion, just action and that’s up to you and your walk with Christ.