What does that word mean to you? Does it provide a sense of comfort, security and community? Or, does it bring a sense of guilt, resentment and hurt? Maybe it’s a mixed bag. No matter which response resonates with you, religion has impacted all of our lives in some fashion. Many have had good experiences, while many others have not.
There are many religions, but they share one common purpose: to connect us with God. So here’s my question:
If God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us, how do we connect with God? With so many religions, denominations and churches, which one has the secret sauce? How do we know which religion is correct? Is there only one way to connect with God? If so, what is it and why do we need 45,000 religions to do it?
Okay, that was five questions.
Many different religions share similar beliefs – what differentiates religions most however are the practices. Practices involve behaviors. So, connecting with God involves bahaving a certain way, doing certain things and definitely not doing other things, right? While one church’s congregants may kneel, another’s may speak in tongues. While one religion’s followers cover their heads, another’s handle snakes. Recitation, memorization, baptism, circumcision, confession…. what’s the answer?
To try to simplify this and make it easy for us to feel connected with God through our behaviors and actions, someone came up with a clever little acronym that fits on a bracelet. Unfortunately, I believe that this acronym has brought even more confusion.
WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? I think Jesus might slap some sense into the Church. Well, maybe that’s harsh – perhaps he would perform a miracle to get our attention, like causing a grapefruit to burst into flames or making unleavened bread taste delicious. Either way, I think he may get frustrated with us from time to time.
WWJD? We already know the answer – he would die. He was whipped, spit upon, humiliated and mocked. Then, he was hoisted upon two wooden beams, suspended by three dirty railroad spikes driven through his wrists and feet, freely breathing his last and yielding his spirit to his Father. That’s what Jesus would do.
I think you would agree with me on this – what Jesus did, I never, ever want to do. Ever. No thank you, I’m good.
So if my goal isn’t to do what Jesus would do, what is it? How can I connect with God? Thankfully, I don’t have to try to connect with God – he initiated connection with me, because he loves me. My behavior doesn’t connect me with God – my behavior is only a reflection of my connection. That is such great news. But if I don’t need to be religious to try to connect with God, how then do I live my life?
I am learning to get out of his way and let him live his life through me –
Not rules, but reconciliation; not law, but love; not imitation, but incarnation; not trying, but dying; not guilt, but grace; not striving, but abiding; not regret, but redemption; not fear, but faith; not effort, but effect; not working, but resting; not failure, but freedom; not condemnation, but justification; not punishment, but forgiveness. Not religion, but relationship.
That’s a lot to put on a bracelet.
I’m so thankful that I don’t need religion to connect with God. Jesus died a painful, bloody death, not so I could have a religion. He died so he and I could have a relationship. Life is much better when I stop striving and let him do his perfect living through imperfect me.