I’m pretty much done with religion. Every day, I run into someone whose story has the same plot: born into a Catholic and/or Christian family, baptized as a kid, hammered with rules and rituals, walked away, and wound up with a messy marriage, family, head or heart. What starts with good intention ends pretty much in disaster.
For me, religion kind of ‘vaccinated’ me from a relationship with God. Without meaning to, it taught me that saying a few magic words (a paraphrase of John 3:16) would somehow make everything perfect. At 10 years old, I wasn’t very aware of my ‘sin’ but I was supposed to feel really happy for being forgiven. As a Baptist, it was ‘once and for all’, so one ‘dunk’ pretty much covered it. The whole Christian thing was transactional. In exchange for confession, I get forgiveness. In exchange for believing in Jesus, I get to avoid hell and go to heaven (Who wouldn’t take that deal?). I swap being good for a clear conscience. If I mess up, see #1 above…previous trade of confession for forgiveness. And even though I knew it was Jesus who covered the cost of the trade, it’s still a trade.
What I missed was the ‘love’ part. It just didn’t get through. The churches I went to, Sunday school teachers, camp counselors, even my parents never talked much about God’s love for ME. About Him being personal. About Him knowing my name. About Him caring about what I was facing and how I was feeling about it. About Him being right there with me and for me. About Him being willing to speak to me…yes, to me personally. I had no clue.
Grasping God’s love changes everything. Realizing God loves us unconditionally and personally and regardless of our performance allows us to relax. I don’t have to ‘sing for my supper’. He loves me whether I sing or not. And He’s going to provide my supper. I’m so grateful for His love (and for the suppers He’s provided all along the way), I want to sing. To sing His praises. To “pray without ceasing”. I’m thanking Him for loving me and asking Him what He’d have me know about the situations I’m in and the people I’m with. He gives me thoughts & unctions. He reminds me of Scriptures, or stuff He’s taught me in the past. He ‘fathers’ me and I live a totally different kind of life. I’m never alone.
See the difference?
If you have children, which do you want them to have? You can’t export what you don’t have, so if all you have is religion, that’s the best you have to give them. But a relationship is something you can tell them about. Let them watch and invite them into. Yeah, they’ll probably think you’re nuts if all they’ve ever known is religion. But over time, Jesus might just become their best friend and ‘father’ them too.
If you’re ready to make the transition, get alone with God. Really quiet and alone. Tell Him you want to move closer. Ask “Lord, what would you have me know right now?” Then listen. Ask “Lord, please show yourself to me”. Watch and listen carefully…with your head and your heart. Don’t be surprised if the first thing you hear is “I love you,___________ (your name).” That’s a pretty big move in a relationship.
I’ve lived 22 years with religion and 30 years in relationship. Relationship beats the snot out of religion.
Question: Are you ready to drop religion and enter into a relationship with God? Tell us here!
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