An inescapable truth in Scripture: Christianity is centered on relationship. Not ritual.
Is that to say ritual is meaningless and unimportant? Nope. But the moment the execution of proper ritual eclipses the pursuit of meaningful relationship with God and people, we’ve missed the mark.
So here are 6 ways to tell if your Christianity is more about ritual than relationship:
- You talk more about issues than you do about Christ.
- Worship/ritual feels empty.
- You would rather debate someone than share what Christ has done in your life.
- You know a lot of what the Bible says, but you don’t do all that much of what the Bible says.
- Because your public worship happens a lot more than your private devotion, people think you’re holier than you are.
- Your Christianity isn’t very portable; it stays mostly at the church building.
I’d love to say I can’t identify with any of these, but that would be very untrue. I’m glad to say, though, that a lot fewer of them apply today than did a few years ago.
What about you?
Numbness is a weird feeling. My experience enabled me to comprehend a person’s ability to suspend every moral standard he/she has ever had in one sweeping motion. What was a no-no is suddenly something that might restore some extent of ‘normalcy’—even if the normal in this case is the pleasure an immoral person would never question.
The simple objective in my moral standard has always been to love and show reverence to whom honor and glory is due—namely my Lord and my neighbor. The moral standard is routinely made complex, however, by confusing humility with control.
I constantly found myself in debate about issues; though very rarely with other people to their face, even more often simply in mind. I wanted to be in control of my thoughts. I wanted to be in control of my actions. I got frustrated when the perils of temptation knocked me off my path because that meant I wasn’t able to stand on my own two feet under my own strength. Any inkling of humility that entered into mind/life/heart was only in reaction to straying from the narrow path. Because I have learned from childhood to ‘always use the buddy system’ to avoid trouble and/or get back on track, I would summon out of habit—to be in control again. Until I fell again. The humility was not genuine. It was replaced by the wrong sense of ‘self’-‘control.’
I was stuck in a cycle. I got sucked into living a life of reaction. Mess up, get up, repeat. My buddy and I travelled down the path, but only communicated to one another when I stumbled and needed first aid. I knew traveling with a buddy is better than traveling alone, but I had no relationship with my buddy. No conversations. No breath. Loneliness. Loneliness in a crowd of two.
I began to feel that I was not worthy of help. I kept making the same mistakes to the none whatsoever of my buddy. I thought I might as well just go off gallivanting through the jungle just so that I would no longer hold him back. I did not feel worthy of his perfection. I did not feel worthy of his consistent benevolence.
But I was afraid. I have, in addition, been taught from childhood that the jungle is a very dangerous place—bringing much harsher pain than merely staggering on and off-kilter. This was the numbness.
True humility is letting God. Or, to be more simple—letting Go.
Life is not worth living in cyclical reaction. Life is worth living in response to ‘backwards’ logic. Such ‘uncommon’ sense is not supposed to make sense—but it does. Follow a homeless guy who promises timeless shelter. Love—your enemies. Hate—your family. Be born—again. Be perfect. This seems impossible, but it is not.
Follow implies a leader. Letting go means listening to someone else—more than a buddy. Letting go means doing what someone else says to do—more than a leader. What your Father has said to do. Even if the finite mind cannot fully comprehend or trust the process, perfection is only possible through joint effort. The journey is not about avoiding the jungle, but about embracing guidance to the mountaintop. The jungle is not appealing along the path of patience.
Let us let go. Let us follow. Let God.
Evan: So, it’s disappointing, but I don’t know who you are. 🙂 How do you know me? Hope you’re doing well. God loves you!
Robin: God doesnt know me. Ive been off the radar for years. im like a ninja, ducking and bobing and weaving outta God’s sight. Ninja…
Evan: Oh, God knows you. And He loves you. He even loves ninjas. Cheesy but true: just because God’s off your radar doesn’t mean that you’re off His.
Robin: im bisexual and my entire family tells me that im going to hell for it. so screw it.
Robin: I don’t think there is a cure for being gay… 😦
Evan: God hasn’t stopped loving you. It’s true that it’s not right it His sight, but not loving what you do does not mean that He doesn’t love you. Haven’t you ever been disappointed in somebody, but still cared about them? Which, if you want to keep reading, brings up the fair question: if God is real, and He made you, why did He make you in a way that apparently condemns you to hell? I think there’s an answer and a hope. I’m sorry if I’m being presumptuous; this may not be something that you want to talk about with me.
Robin: I dont know you [Evan] but you’re pretty couragous for talking to strangers about things like this. I admire what you’re doing honestly. The only thing that I’m not seeing here is why God just doesn’t beat the crap out of Satan and end the struggle between good and evil. Why can’t got stop his own creation from destroying the beautiful creations God has made? I’m not trying to test God but before I fall to my knees and pray to this imaginary God in the sky who watches everyone at all times then he’s going to have to show me something. He’s going to have to show me that he cares about me and everyone in the world that has struggled with phisical disabilities, financial disablilities to the point that it breaks their spirit, and people killing other people over land, oil or whatever. It just makes me sick to my stomach to think that if there is a God and he can’t send us all straight to heavan without the inconvienience of Earth. If he LOVES US SO MUCH! I may be confused, but I do know that God could take care of all the Earthly bull-spit if he wanted to.
Evan: Well first off, Robin, I appreciate you calling me courageous; I don’t feel very courageous. But just because you and I are strangers is no reason not to care about you and want your life to be as wonderful as possible. And I’ve asked myself the same question about God a lot over the years…the same question, more than once. Supposedly, my dad accidentally shot himself in the head when I was three months old while he was cleaning a gun he thought we needed for protection, and that he thought was empty. I’ve put a lot of hope in the thought that it was an accident, and that my dad just didn’t kill himself because of the pressure of having a son before he had graduated from college. I’ve shed a lot of tears over that. And for almost a year in high school, I struggled with an addiction to pornography. That was after I’d decided to become a Christian, so not only did I wonder if I had just thrown my salvation out the window, but I was going home and doing something every day screaming in my mind that I never wanted to do it again. I wondered how God could allow something so awful to penetrate my life, and I felt so ashamed at the thought of my mother realizing that the only man left in her life had gone down such a lusty path. And I still struggle with different things today that just make me feel miserable. When I think about all the power that the Bible says God has, it really is disappointing to still see evil, and get the feeling that maybe the Bible is a bunch of lies. And since I believe in the God of the Bible, a false Bible means a false God. But the Bible presents me with the idea that when God made man, God wanted His creation to have a genuine relationship of love with Him, and that in order to allow for something that’s real love, He had to give man real choice – real free will. That makes sense to me because I’ve definitely learned the lesson that I can’t force someone to have a relationship with me and say that means that they love me. Even if I had that kind of power, they would be no more than a robot. And if the God of the Bible is real, then the devil of the Bible is real, too. And if man has free will, then God’s not going to force anyone to follow Him, but He gives them the option and gives us the Bible so we can learn what’s up; and the devil can’t override our free will, but he’s going to make walking away from God as attractive as possible. And I think we both know that a lot of the junk in this world just comes from people making unloving, selfish, and even evil decisions. If God just pwned Satan, and God was our only choice, that wouldn’t be a choice, and we’d become the robots that He doesn’t want us to be. I feel convinced that God is constantly pained by what Satan does, but He refuses to throw the baby out with the bath water. So what does He do about it? He talks to people all through history and presents us with a written record of it: the Bible today; and conceives a baby in a virgin woman, God in the flesh, named Jesus, to live as an example and die as a sacrifice for everyone who is being drawn away by the devil.—————But that’s not even all of it, is it? Because there’s a lot of stuff that human choice just can’t seem to be responsible for messing up – like the woman who is born without the use of her legs, or the man born blind, or the parents who suffer a miscarriage, or the widowed mother that loses her job and suddenly can’t support her hungry 2 year old. Here’s what I’m sure of: I’m sure that the Bible records that real suffering first entered the world when Adam and Eve, the first two people ever, decided to disobey God. Now, to me it seems that God has a really stinky job, because He’s got the throne over absolutely everything, and when evil is done that means that there has to be justice, and it’s His responsibility to make that happen. And since God loves everybody, He has to go through the painful process of carrying out justice not on evil strangers, but on those He truly and intimately cares about. When Adam and Eve were given charge to be caretakers of the things God made, and they abused that charge, the result was apparently that the creation wasn’t perfect anymore. That’s on their heads. I believe that natural disasters, and a lot physical disabilities, and the evil that just seems to come into people’s lives out of know where, is the result of Adam and Eve agreeing to the devil’s temptation to disobey God and leave paradise behind, and the abuse of free will in the generations that came after them. Of course, the devil didn’t spend any time encouraging them to think about the negative consequences of their actions as the first man and woman. I would have hated to be God in that moment. But I believe the Bible when it also teaches me that God has not been idle regarding our suffering. I believe that God has worked with those in need from the first day to this one, and that He gave us the Bible to know, and Jesus to follow, and salvation to accept, and prayer to talk to Him, and mercy and grace and hope and faith and love, and the opportunity to focus on that which lasts beyond the physical. What God hasn’t done, He hasn’t done so that we could have the means to be free. And what God has done, He has done to make that freedom as wonderful as it can be, until such a time that the wonderful can become eternal and perfect.—————Strange as it is from our perspective, it would not be best for God to grant us eternity without granting us life first. You may or may not remember that the Bible teaches that we aren’t the only sentient beings that God ever made; He also made angels. They were created straight into eternity. They seem to be superior to us in a lot of ways, even demonstrating what seems to be a greater capacity for obedience. I would probably find it easier to obey God if I were right there in His presence, too. 🙂 The consequence of that, though, is that angels don’t get a chance at redemption when they screw up, since they are giving up nothing short of perfection. God created angels for service, but God created humans for love. And without life before eternity, we don’t have the chance God knows we will need, with all our weaknesses, to be okay. I sure have taken up a lot of your time. I’m sorry for being long winded, but I didn’t want to give you an answer that I probably wouldn’t settle for myself.
Robin: Truthfully your faith in God is much stronger than mine is. You took time out of your day to give me an honest answer from the heart. I greatly appreciate that more than I can describe from with words. I havent read the bible in years and I think its time that I read it and take it to heart and try to understand what it is telling us. If God is real than I am going to hell, no questions asked and I think I need to answer that question on my own. Once again thank you.
Evan: We’re all in a different place, Robin. You are more than welcome, and you always will be. Just remember that nothing you will read in the Bible was meant to separate you from God, but to draw you closer. Once again, you’re welcome and God loves you.
Robin: Also, i really appreciate you you sharing that story about your father. That took alot of guts. i appreciate your sharing someithing so personal and possibly sacred to you with ME. a stranger. thank you [Evan]. honestly that is really cool of you
Evan: Robin, it’s a lot easier to share things like that when you care about the people you share it with. And it also helps a lot when those people listen as kindly as you have. That is cool of YOU.