The most common view of life with God today is a picture of us living under divine rules in order to avoid calamity.
Follow the rules, live right, and God will bless us. Right?
We want God on our side. In simple terms, we want to move his hand or manipulate him.
A God who controls everything gives us rules, so we try to exert control over him in order to reduce uncertainty.
We do this by:
1. Rituals (religious practices which appease God)
2. Morality (certain behaviours to be done or avoided)
Its like the great exchange. I give you worship and righteous behavior, you give me __________.
It’s a formula: I give you this, you give me that.
We motivate people towards sexual abstinence telling them, “If you don’t have sex you will have better grades, sports success, and have amazing sex when married.”
The problem is no one is telling you of the divorced couples who waited.
We motivate generosity so that God will give you wealth. (I give you this, you give me that)
Problems creep in when our formula does not work
“God, how could you?”
“I’ve been faithful my whole life, I attended church?”
“I’ve raised my kids according to the Bible, we always went to church, why is God allowing my son to go through this?”
Skye Jethani calls this viewpoint a “potent mix of pagan superstition and Biblical morality.”
This viewpoint is illustrated in John 9:1, they asked “Rabbi, Who sinned this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
This showed a sense of karma – you get what you deserve, either good or bad. Someone did not follow the rules enough, either his parents or him.
Jesus broke the rules though.
Those on the naughty list were the ones Jesus welcomed!
Those on the good list he called white washed tombs, dishes that are clean on outside, but dirty on inside.
If we were to illustrate this type of walk with God, it would be a list of rules and rituals to follow. We enter the scene being sinner who must appease God through obedience and morality.
But this is doomed to fail. Guilt, fear, and constantly falling short will be the path of our live
And if our faith boils down to an ability to keep standards and practices to move the hand of the Almighty, who ultimately is in charge?
Jethani describes the end result of this approach as “living under the constant threat of God’s wrath and punishment,…(attempting) to appease His Will through strict obedience to moral and ritual commands.”
Life is not meant to be lived under this type of structure, but in response to God.
God knew we were unable to keep the rules or follow his standards, so he sent His Son to do what we were unable to do.
We don’t throw the wisdom or principles away, we place them in their proper context. (They are true after all!)
They are not a means of achieving the favor and blessings of God, but a response to already having it.
Of course there are blessings associated with right lifestyle.
Our focus not be on the blessings, but on the one who made them possible.
Otherwise our faith is reduced to a glorified self improvement program or a form of Christian Hinduism.
Live right – Not in order to be blessed, but because you have been blessed.
Much of this post was inspired by Skye Jethani’s book: [amazon_link id=”B005EH36QE” target=”_blank” ]With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God[/amazon_link]. It is the best book I have read in years!