So a couple blogs ago I talked about Donald Miller's Searching for God Knows What. I've finished the book, and plan to use it here with the Youth Group. Most of his book is about a relational religion, not formulaic or legalistic religion. Great!
Miller emphasizes a relationship with Jesus, not in a way that boasts how much quiet time you spend in the morning, or how your quota of daily bible reading, or Saturdays spent at the homeless shelter, but in a way that expresses a NEED and LOVE of a God you can't fully understand. None of those things in the list are bad, I could definately do more of all of them. But thats just it, there's ALWAYS MORE to do, always things about myself that suck, constantly more ways I can be a better follower of Christ.
But isn't that how it is in any relationship we have?
With my human buddies, I can always return calls faster or give more consideration to their needs, or in other ways show my love for my friends. I don't necessarily spend 8 minutes on the phone with each of them every day to show my friendship, it might not hurt but I can't just focus on the phone time or how many cards I send them. When we focus on the acts rather than who the acts are for, we get into trouble. Ultimately, it's not like there's a set of items to check off an agenda to achieve one-ness with Christ, some finite once and for all 7 habits of the best Christians ever.
Conversely, when we piss our friends off or do things that agitate them, how good of friends are we going to remain? If I constantly am blowing someone off or making excuses not to hang out or ignoring their needs for my own, what kind of relationship is that?
Miller helped me realize that my concept of a relationship with Jesus has been fairly shallow. Following rules and doing whats right is good, but those are a means to the end of Jesus himself. So when you screw up it's not like a sin scale tips in heaven but more like dissapointing someone you love.
When we talk about a relationship like this, it's much more difficult because it really takes on meaning. You're no longer feel some vague obligation to "being a good Christian" and not _____ (fill in the blank here) but really you're honoring God by obeying his commands. You're in an abstract relationship until its made real by your actions, it's real because Christ is in you and you care.
I think in church we stress habits and steps because they're easier. Shoot, i've done it myself without practicing it myself, how horrible is that? It's Dr. Phil religious mode: "If you read your bible and pray everyday, and give 10% of your money back to this church, you'll be in with God." Reading scripture, prayer, tithing....who could argue against these things, which God calls his people to do. BUT if they're like things we check off a list rather than times when you devote time to interacting with God than they're not really doing what they're meant for. It's the same as when Jesus tells the people not to draw attention to themselves when they fast or pray, because that's missing the point of the whole thing.
So I really reccomend this book, although thats what I plan to talk about next time.