Monday, February 8, 2016
Avoiding Religion Part One
Avoiding Religion: To the Christian
There once was an enthusiastic woman. She had a husband to whom she was completely devoted. In fact, she promised herself she would remain dedicated to him forever. In doing so, she also decided she needed to prove herself worthy to him so he could truly love her.
So this woman decided to learn about her man. She wanted to understand every aspect of him, ways she could better help him, when this devotion started, and in what ways could she encourage it to continue. But the woman didn't just stop there. She traveled to all the places he'd been, walked where he walked, and even talked like he talked. She met his friends... and his enemies. She learned about him in every way imaginable. She acted in a way that she knew would please him. She knew she had to be the perfect wife.
While on her expedition, anyone who met this woman was impressed. The ladies wished they were more dedicated like her. Men wished they had wives who loved them as much as this woman seemed to love her husband.
"Such a devout wife", they would remark. "This is a woman of character. She is not afraid to work hard to get what she wants. She sets out to find what she's looking for and is successful. And all of this to please her husband..."
It made her feel good inside to hear these things. It pushed her to try harder and work harder to be the one her husband would accept. In fact, as she did so, she had this hope in the back of her mind that this would be a way to prove the validity of her love to this man.
Then, the day came.... Her journey had reached it's end. The people she met were gone, the places she had visited were but a distant memory, and her aspirations and dreams were fulfilled. But would it be enough to impress the man she loved?
She went to the door of her house, and crept inside. Her eyes traveled across the room, from the empty living space, to the messy kitchen, and the barren dining area. Suddenly, an elderly man entered the front room. The woman jumped back with a start.
"Who are you?" She demanded, a little taken off guard. "I'm looking for my husband."
The deep-set wrinkles in the man's brow increased as he looked at her closely. He took a step forward.
"I", he stated slowly, "I am your husband." The woman stared in disbelief.
"That can't be!" she countered. "I know my husband. Better than his own mother! I've studied him and everything about him. You sir, cannot be that man." However, he continued to look at her sadly.
"You don't recognize me because you haven't spent any time with me. While I was taking a morning walk in the neighborhood, you were off touring my childhood home. The days I came home from a rough day at work with cold dinner as my only consolation, you were reading documents at the library about the day I was born. As I sat alone by the fireplace at night with a cup of green tea, you were having dinner with those I haven't seen in over 20 years. While my life forged on, as does any other, you were not there because you were too busy trying to learn about me and earn my respect. But I was right here the whole time. Waiting for the chance to learn and grow along side you. Waiting to care for you. Waiting to love you. Baby, you don't recognize me because you don't even know me."
At this point, tears were streaming his bride's face. She had made a mistake that cost her the relationship she had devoted her whole life to maintain. In trying to earn the right to be cared for, she had lost her one chance to experience a relationship that would have melted any fear of rejection. A love given that could not be gained through something she did, nor ever could be. In trying to earn a love her spouse gave freely, it had all been lost...
I don't consider myself a religious person. Actually, I aim to avoid "religion" as much as possible. Classifying myself as one who is "Religious" immediately puts all religions at the same level. Buddhism, Mormonism, Christianity, Hinduism... All are forced into a crowded and invisible coffin of good works and unobtainable perfection. To be religious is to be piously moral, saintly, or devout. What's wrong with these things, you ask? Well, everything... when done in our own strength. When we are trying to be "religious", we are trying to attain something that was already achieved; the saving grace of Jesus Christ. In the story above, we saw a woman who went to great lengths to learn all she could about her husband. She worked hard. She was unrelenting. She was determined. Yet she forgot the most important thing,.. spending time with her husband. You know... Relationship.
Being religious denotes self. It brings glory to the good behavior and holy living of a working saint, rather than bringing to the forefront the actions of an awesome Creator.
Works are not the coupons we parade during our Christian walk in order to gain the good deals of God's blessings. He loves His people. Nothing we can do or say will ever change that. Instead of using our works to help self, we offer them to God as a meager sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. Our good works should proclaim the goodness of God and showcase His power to save those who are utterly unable to do so themselves.
You see, with the right approach to our Christian walk, we will lose all aspects of a simple religion, at least in the way the world would see it. As we draw closer to God, we find instead a relationship with a Father who loves us. With this perspective in our hearts and the experience of the grace of God in our lives, the idea and practice of Christianity as a "religion" really couldn't be further from the truth.
Jeremiah 33:3 - Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
Revelation 3:20 - Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
James 4:8 - Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded.