I’m having another long discussion with Dan Traube back at my Class Warfare in the Church post. We pretty much disagree (again) but that’s OK. The whole discussion has got me thinking.
How do we relate to God?
Most religions are about connecting people to God. When I think about some of the major religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Shintoism, I see that they are all very different.
Yet they all have one thing in common that I can see. Each of them have some sort of set of rules or guidelines that a person must follow to reach spiritual fulfillment. There are things a person must do and others that they must not do if they are going to “make it” in these religions. Many Christians do the exact same thing.
But Jesus completely tossed out this idea of rule keeping.
The biggest conflicts he had were with the religious leaders. They were the best rule keepers and really didn’t like what Jesus had to say. In fact Jesus made them so angry that they conspired to have him killed to shut him up.
What sorts of things did Jesus say that got the religious leadership so worked up? Here’s one example
I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
Jesus said it was a simple
two step process.
That’s it. According to Jesus, that’s all it takes to be acceptable to God. There’s no special sacrifice required, no long pilgrimage, no heroic deeds or great quest, and no list of rules to follow.
A lot of people don’t like that. They want it to be hard so they feel like they’ve accomplished something when they get there. That’s the only reason I can figure so many Christians have added on such an overwhelming list of rules to the basic things Jesus said.
But the bottom line is that Jesus taught that we don’t relate to God by keeping a list of rules. We relate to him as a person relates to another person, by hanging out with him and having conversation and dialogue.
And by doing that doesn’t mean that we are being disrespectful of God or reducing him to our level of an ordinary person. Just like we can converse with a King or a President and still respect and honor his position, we can relate to God on a personal level through the person of Jesus while still honoring and respecting him.
In one way, rules are easier on our end. With a list of rules we can measure how we are doing and figure out where we stand in our relationship with God. We can feel pretty good when we pretty much are keeping to most of the rules.
Did you know that God does allow for folks to relate to him on the basis of rules? It’s true. The down side is huge, though!
First the standard is absolute perfection in keeping those rules. For your entire life, past, present and future. And it covers both thought and action. If you ever break any of the rules once in the tiniest way then, “buzzzz. You must leave the island.”
There are no second chances and no allowances under the rule system. Either you are perfect or you are out. Oh, and you have to pick the right set of rules, too.
The standard is impossibly high. But you are free to go that way if you like.
OR you can do it Jesus’ way:
Listen and Believe.
It sounds ridiculously simple. What’s the catch?
The catch is that when you choose to do it Jesus’ way, you will find yourself able to follow the rules on an ever improving basis because the change will come from the inside out.
We blow it completely when we try to change from the outside in by forcing ourselves to follow a set of rules to change our behavior. The results from the rules first approach are always far less the results from Jesus’ way.
And that is doubly true when we try to get other people to change by following a list of rules!
So here’s my question:
How do you relate to God?
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