God wants from you a love that lasts, not more religion. He wants you to get to know Him in a deep and intimate way, not just go to more prayer meetings.”
(Personal paraphrase of Hosea 6:6 based on The Message Bible.)
(Part 1 in my series on Religion Vs. Relationship.)
…And I’ve gotta stop it right there.
I’m sorry, but for me it ceases to be funny as soon as I start to think about how many people don’t know God. It’s even worse when those that claim to know Him really don’t, at least not in a personal and intimate way.
And the more I think about it, the more my eyes sting, no matter how funny the joke might be.
After a lifetime of developing a personal and intimate relationship with God myself, I’ve grown close enough to Him to know that He longs for an intimate relationship with each one of us. Individually. You. And me. After all, that’s why He created mankind. For our fellowship. He was lonely, and He wanted a being that could choose to love Him of their own free will and choose to spend time with Him just because they wanted to. No hidden agenda. No coercion. Not out of instinct. Or self-preservation. Or duty. But just out of a deep and abiding love for Him.
In “The Zoe Dogalectic“, I wrote about how God is constantly calling to us, gently knocking at the door of our hearts, patiently waiting for us to take the next step and answer that knock, open the door, invite Him in, and fellowship with Him.
Unfortunately, when this intimate relationship with God doesn’t come as easily as we expect (or when something bad happens we don’t understand), too often we either give up and consider Him a myth, or we substitute mere religious practices for the real thing. Then we wonder why things don’t seem quite right — like a punchline that fell flat in the delivery. We feel like there’s something missing, that there’s something deeper we should be experiencing.
It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with religion — without a doubt it has its place and it has its benefits — but it should only be a starting point, not the be-all and end-all. It should teach us ABOUT God, but only for the express purpose of showing us the way to a relationship WITH God.
There is so much more to be had when you allow religion to grow into a relationship. What’s the difference?
Mankind’s feeble attempts to explain the unexplainable, to fathom the unfathomable, to understand with finite and limited minds an infinite Being so vast and powerful that even the cosmos which He created pale in comparison;
Spending time in His presence, fellowshipping intimately on a personal level, with this Creator of the Universe in spite of our questions, disappointments, uncertainties, or phobias.
So how can you know whether what you’re practicing is religion or a real relationship with the Almighty God? That’s what this new tag, “Religion Versus Relationship,” is all about. By contrasting the two in the posts to come, we’ll discover some tests to help us determine the difference.
He’s waiting. Patiently.
* If you’d like a pdf version of this series in its entirety when it’s done, let me know in the comments or by lnkemail/ and I’ll email it to you.
* Image(s) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.