For the beauty of the earth, For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise This our grateful hymn of praise.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Religion & Relationship

There is a saying in the Christian-sphere that until this past year I found utterly offensive: It's not about a religion; it's about a relationship. Now that I can be honest with myself I would have to say that I probably found it offensive because I thought my religion was all I needed. To hear someone say something like that was an attack on everything I believed and, therefore, an attack on my very person. If there's one thing a religious person can't stand (and there are actually a lot of things we can't stand) it's the feeling we are being attacked. This feeling is usually brought on when we meet with someone who has a different set of beliefs than our own. And if there's one thing a religious person can't stand, it's someone who believes differently. :)

You see, using the definition implied in the first statement, religion is about being right and believing that we can then sit in judgment over everyone else. It's not about loving God; it's definitely not about loving others. Of course, the religious person can't see that. We are incapable of seeing past the end of our own noses. All we can see is that we are right and you are wrong, then we justify our hostility and belligerence by saying, "If you don't believe the way I do, you can't be saved."

Religion can be found in any institution. It can be conservative or liberal; it can be Arminian or Calvinist. There is no border to hold it out, no race can ever be pure enough to resist it. We are all potentially religious people. I mean this in a different way than we are all people who want something to worship. That is the good part (for lack of a better way to put it), the Imago Dei, that makes us all desire to find a god and worship it, even it if's a god of our own making. The need to be religious stems from our own need to be right, and therefore righteous in and of ourselves. That started with the fall and Adam and Eve did a great job of illustrating it when they played the blame game.

Relationship is basically about loving God and loving others. This comes by studying God's word so we can actually find out how to love Him, and, as an offshoot of loving God, we then love others. These are the two greatest commandments yet the religious person will only pay them lip-service while sadly believing themselves to be in complete conformity.

For my entire life I thought I was right to believe this way. And, quite honestly, I received very little instruction to turn my heart aright. It wasn't until I was confronted by a situation where a person whom I love deeply was affected that my eyes finally began to open to the truth. It was a hard and painful lesson. In the course of the past several years I had to face myself in the actions of another person who mirrored, and therefore acted, the way I believed, and had to realize that I was in opposition to God's very word as a result of my religion. Ultimately we had to leave our religion altogether physically as well as spiritually. That was a really, really tough realization. It always is when you must finally admit that not only were you wrong, but that you nearly destroyed everything by being wrong.

But God was extremely gracious to us, in fact I cannot ever over-emphasize his Grace toward us during all of this. I did nothing to deserve it, but He gave it to me anyway. He called me out of my self-righteous, hypocritical religious tendencies into true life with Him.

In John 10:9 Jesus says, The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. This is what "religion" does. It does it to the religious person, then the religious person does it to those around them. But Jesus goes on to say in that verse, I came that they might have life and have it abundantly. I have found this to be true. After chucking the bonds of my own personal law (a religious persons identity) and learning what it is to truly be reliant on God AND that He actually cares enough for me that I can trust Him, life did become abundant.

Now, I've probably botched this explanation on so many levels so I don't mind questions for clarification. I know there are many people within my old religion who will disagree with me and that is actually why I've kept it as not to overly or unnecessarily offend anyone.

One other interesting note: I have been working on this post for several days now. Writing it, then deleting it. Anyway, I had settled on the first few paragraphs and gone off to do other things but in the meantime I found this article in Relevant. I thought it was, well, relevant to this topic coz it talks about the cruelty some people treat others when they think they are sharing truth with them. That's a lot of what I'm referring to as "religion." 

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