Oct 15, 2009

a few words on why religion stinks

Consider this - One of the things that gets in the way of us having a true connection with God is the way we define that connection.

Like I said, consider that for a moment.

The way we define a connection with God is called "religion," and religion on its own simply stinks.

Out of my own life, when I was growing up, I was a "Catholic." I don't mean to put the quotes around that word to hint at any negativity, but rather because when I say "Catholic" I mean it was how I defined Catholic. For me that meant I'd pop into a church service at Easter and Christmas with my parents, vaguely pay attention if we attended other times of the year, and make the "Sign of the Cross" whenever I prayed. I believed "about" God, and occasionally I believed "in" God.

But that was it. It was my religion... it was how I chose to define my search for God (even though it was usually more of a shield I raised to feel like I could "checklist" off that part of my life and go on to do other things).
  • Disclaimer: I know other people define their Catholic faith or upbringing more deeply than that. I have family members, for instance, who have found that to be true. But for me... that's not what it was. Maybe you know what I mean.
If you would've pressed me on it, I would have argued with you that I was a "Christian." Again - notice the quotes... a "Christian" as I defined it, and not as the Bible does. After all, I had a version of a Christian religion that I felt mechanically good with. It blended in well with how and where I was raised, for in the greater Chicagoland area I had opted for a popular choice. Among my peers, being a Catholic was usually a family tradition that at times was possibly religious. Only in very, very rare instances did I see it become authentically spiritual in a friend or two.

By the way... this post isn't about Catholicism. We don't need to debate about what it is or isn't, but I needed to share that so we can turn to what this post is really about.

One of the things that gets in the way of us having a true connection with God is the way we define that connection.

Because everything I just described is not just true of Catholicism. It's true of any church, including the one I serve in and enjoy growing in my relationship with God.

And it's true of even people who feel they have the closest connection to Him. Sometimes those who seem the most passionate about a certain way of pursuing God have forgotten that it's not the way we worship that matters... it's the object of our worship.

Let me give you a little glimpse of the punchline of what I'm talking about. In the book of Nehemiah, the Israelites have just come out of a time of slavery and are finally back in their own land. After much hard work at restoring many of their holy places, they enter in a time of worship. Those in spiritual authority cried out to the people:
"Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise." (Nehemiah 9:5-6)
If you read that passage quickly, you may miss the whammy of a thought hidden right there at the end... that who God is matters more than any blessing or praise.

Think about what that means... maybe it still hasn't hit you yet.

There is no form of blessing or praise - spoken, sung, enacted - that is more important than God Himself.

And yet...

One of the things that gets in the way of us having a true connection with God is the way we define that connection.

In other words, when we begin to worship "worship" more than the Lord Himself, we've created something inauthentic and tried to make it feel authentic.
  • Perhaps you have grown comfortable in a routine that feels religious on your terms. And yet it is robbing you of a true relationship with God on His terms.

  • Maybe there is an aspect of how you seek the Lord out that is your favorite way to do so. What happens when that itch isn't being scratched in the way you like it? Do you elevate that form of praise higher than you elevate the God the praise is intended for?

  • Who or what gets to define if you are really on track with what it is you say you believe?

  • Is the purpose of a church community to meet your needs? Or is the purpose of a church community a gathering of Christ-followers who decide to meet the needs God says matter?
Has the punchline hit you yet?

I have found that when I can put God in my pocket, He has ceased to be God.
  • No bumper sticker is big enough to define Him.
  • No style of worship is encompassing enough to praise Him.
  • No denomination is true enough to exist without Him.
  • No discovery is shiny enough to steal the spotlight from Him.
  • No science is smart enough void of Him.
  • No person is dirty enough that they don't matter to Him..
Perhaps you read this as a skeptic. Thanks for popping in... and I dare you to stop rejecting God as much as you're rejecting your idea of God. Please think about that for a moment.

Maybe you're processing through this as a religious person... again, thank you for your time. But don't let your self-defined pace of considering God keep your from recognizing the fiercely-tender, redemptively-holy One who is so much larger than you believe He is... so much more relevant to your life than you allow... so much more intimate with you than you are with Him.

Or it could be that you are taking all of this in as one who has chosen to step over the line and embrace the fire hydrant drink of Jesus Christ's love and His purpose for you here on planet earth. Again, even with you there will be a temptation to look for God-things to scratch itches only God is supposed to itch.

Even today, I wrestle with wanting to define my faith versus allowing it to be defined and refined by my God. I tell Him, "This is how we're going to best connect," and He says, "I'm actually trying to talk to you from over here. Peek-a-boo!"

There is a difference between playing your own music and asking God to dance to it, versus tuning into the soundtrack the Creator has set into motion and letting your life sway in new ways because of it...
because of Him.

But as you dance, don't worship the dance or the music. Rather, enjoy and express your heart out to the One behind it all.

Religion? It stinks.

But God pursuing you isn't religion. 

He is an amazing Daddy who loves His kids.

And that... is a relationship worth letting Him define so you can more fully embrace it.

Take a look at that picture at the top of Adam and God again. Who of the two is stretching, and who of the two is barely lifting a finger to connect?


1 comment:

Kerilee said...

When I studied that painting in college, I always wondered why Michelangelo portrayed God as working so hard and Adam so...so... uninvolved.

It is an apt visual to how we often try to make the message ABOUT us, not FOR us. I find comfort in the rituals of religon, but too often it becomes habit not passion for Christ. Thanks for the push.... Kerilee