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June 23, 2016, 12:00 PM

Religion vs. Relationship


by Haley MaKenna Hardman

 

 

            Do you ever read a book and think that the whole world needs to read it? I’m kind of a book fanatic and I think that pretty much every book is one of those that you can’t put down. I’m currently reading The Great Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldridge. I mean it when I say that this is a book that the whole world needs to read- especially in this day and age. It’s not one of those “self-help” books, but it is a book that calls you back to your heart- to the wild love that every person dreams of at one time or another. It calls you to adventure and excitement. Most important, it calls you to the very heart of God. This post is not a book promotion or advertisement, but I need to explain how I feel about the book to clearly state the main point: God did not create us to have religion with Him; He created us to have relationship with Him.

            Now, as I’m going through this book, I read things like, “Life is not a list of propositions, it is a series of dramatic scenes,” and “Just what if we saw God not as the Author, the cosmic mastermind behind all human experience, but as the central character in the larger story? What could we learn about his heart?” At first, statements like these perplexed me. I’ve always viewed God as the Author of my story who wants a relationship, but I’ve never viewed Him as the hero pursuing His heroine, like with an actual heart after me. I had head knowledge of this, but I never understood I guess. God is pursuing me (literally) and He wants an intimate relationship with me- a wild, adventurous relationship that goes beyond what any earthly relationship could be (Yes. I said beyond.). He is not satisfied with me just going to church, being involved in church, and the rest of my “religious activities”.

            According to Google, the definition of the word religion is, “the belief and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.” The definition of the word relationship according to Google is, “the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.” The very definition of these two words is completely different. Religion requires worship, relationship requires actual connection. Worship can be given to anything. Worship is given to our electronic devices when we give up family time to stare at them. Worship is given to our jobs when we devote too much time to them. Worship is given to scenery when we stare in awe at it. Worship is given to our significant other when we give up something important for them. Worship is given to ourselves when we can’t go past a mirror without looking in it. And connection? Connection is much deeper. Connection takes time, relatability, care, devotion, time, grace, significance and more time. Consider it like a friendship. One does not simply become best friends with someone after one conversation or an occasional visit. Connection takes being vulnerable; it takes trust. And that is precisely what God looks for with us.

            When God created us, He said, “Let us make man in our image.” (Genesis 1:26). Before creation, we’re told that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). We’re also told that the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters of the formless and empty earth (Genesis 1:2). So if God, Himself, has a perfect relationship within Himself, and we’re created to be like Him, then we have the same exact desire for and hunger for a relationship that cannot be found here on this earth. In fact, when Jesus came down to this earth, He prayed a prayer for us that has MAJOR significance in his coming. In John 17, he prays:

 

John 17:21-23

“I pray that they will be one, just as you and I are one- as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”

 

            Does that sound like Jesus is asking God to bring us to a place where we attend church every Sunday and Wednesday? I am in no way trying to bring down the importance of church activities, but maybe some of us get caught up in the religion of it all and never understand the significant importance that needs to be placed on our relationship with God- the whole reason we, the body of Christ, are supposed to come together at church. I know I did. This isn’t the church’s fault necessarily. Anyone who’s grown up in church has been taught that He loves us with an indescribable love, and that in order to see Him face to face one day, we must have a relationship with Him. We’re all given a Bible that explains it even further with story after story of God pursuing His bride with a passionate love. We’re even given a whole book that is literally a love letter to us; it’s called the Song of Solomon. It seems risqué and hard to swallow, but viewed as a conversation between a husband and a wife, it is exactly right. Now, imagine if the conversation went like this:

She: “I’m so looking forward to our wedding day. I do love you so much. I really wish I could see more of you. There’s so much about you I want to know better.”

He: “Yes dear, I know. I’m going to send you a book that describes more about my life. I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of it.”

She: “I’ll be glad to read it. But I just want to hold your hand.”

He: “I’m sure you do, beloved. Let me send you a tape describing the role of physical affection at different stages of courtship. You’ll find it worthwhile, I’m sure.”

 

            This is not how the conversation goes between us and God. Actually, we’re the ones that usually run to books and tapes and music. None of those things are bad, but when we spend too much time diving into those, and not into actual conversation with the One whom those things are about, we miss the point and the time spent with the books, tapes, and music is pointless. We MUST have an encounter with Him in order to fill the emptiness that we all feel inside. If you’ve been in church at all, you’ve heard this before, but I just wanted to remind you that the Great Mysterious Heart that we all talk about like “it” is some theology to be debated, is R.E.A.L. real and until we make the effort to get to know Him, we’ll feel empty for all of eternity.

 

-Haley


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