“This is what I am pondering tonight. Can you be so busy obeying that you miss out on a real relationship with God, that would make obeying the rules become more natural?”
I read this post from a sweet friend last night on Facebook and then I went back and read it again…and then again. I love it when people post things that show they’re actually thinking! Posts that show people are pursuing God and want to be who they were designed to be instead of sharing the latest gossip or what they’re having for supper…well, those are the kinds of posts that keep me on Facebook in spite of the other kind.
Back to the actual question, though. I loved it because I know the heart behind it and because it cries for something deeper that a quick pat on the head or an off-the-cuff religious answer. It’s a great question and one that I wanted to take some time thinking about before I just fired off my initial response.
I took another look at it today and found myself agreeing with others who had responded. They all said, “yes!” and while I believe that they are correct, the writer and the God-lover inside of me won’t allow me to be so minimalistic in my answer. So, here’s my response:
For me, the answer is a “yes” and I think that’s the basic difference between a religion and a relationship. When all you have is religion, rules are the order of the day and making sure that you’re following all of those rules leaves precious little time to consider whether or not the rules you’re following actually came from God or if they were the result of man’s attempt to ‘clean up the mess’ around him.
Yes, I know, it is shocking, but that actually happened…and it still does, from time to time. It’s one of the reasons we have all manner of denominations and such widely varied practices all in the name of being religious. People with really good intentions (and on occasion, the desire to make people behave more like they want them to!) have created more rules than God Himself and when we haven’t actually read what GOD has to say is most important, it becomes easier to just fall in line and conform to what those around us are doing without asking that all-important WHY question.
And, yes, God does have rules. That’s a really inconvenient truth for some people who would rather pursue a religion designed to accommodate their lifestyle choices and allow them to hang out with similarly like-minded people under the guise of pursuing God–as they have chosen to re-create Him. (As if the ultimate Creator could ever be re-created!)
Scripture is clear, however, that God’s rules always have a purpose. They are designed to protect us and to direct our lives as we become more like His Son—lives that are holy and set apart on purpose so that others will see the difference and want to ask that WHY question for themselves.
I know that there are those who read only a particular portion of Scripture and say how barbaric God must be and how He couldn’t possibly be kind and loving or even fun when they’ve read only that section of the Bible, but honestly, it boils down to things that are a lot simpler than all of our sophistication tries to make it. Example: It isn’t that God was unkind and wanted to deprive His people from the delicious taste of great barbeque when He gave them such specific food restrictions. It was His way of protecting them because it’s really hard to tailgate with all those people on a 40-year hike through the desert without any means of refrigeration! (grin)
While that’s a really light-hearted example and will not address the sincere frustrations many people have with God’s rules, there’s still a lot of truth in it. His primary purpose is our protection so that we can live lives that are healthy and allow us to focus on actually having a relationship with Him. Relationships aren’t always easy or simple. They involve more than one voice and while God will have the final say, He’s not threatened when we question Him and His will or express our anger or our hurt at the way things are turning out for us down here. He’s way bigger than that! In fact, if we never question, how will we ever learn? That basic educational truth applies here, as well.
In fact, I think it is required that we question God–and I think He likes it! I think it shows that we’re interested in what He thinks and proves that we’re actually using that wonderful brain that He took the time to create! Yes, there are respectful ways to talk with Him and ask those questions, but I promise you that He isn’t waiting until you get your questions grammatically correct and voiced in the proper deferential tone of voice before He’ll deign to speak with you.
So, all that basically boils down to a decided “Yes, Mendy, it is possible to be so busy following the rules that we miss God entirely. We can live really morally acceptable lives that impress all kinds of people without ever becoming acceptable to God Himself…and in the process, we will rob ourselves of that most precious gift: a real-life relationship with the One who loves us most. Thanks for not doing that!”