When I was in college, one of my tasks was to write a thesis. I forget how many words it was, but I remember it was a lot! It is probably still gathering dust somewhere in my loft. My subject was ‘Man Qua Man is a Religious Being’. I won’t bore you with the intricate details of my thesis, which was a very fat tome indeed. I will just give you the fundamental and interesting principal; wherever you look, no matter which country you are in, or which people group you associate with, man has this need to worship, or desire for ‘a god’; the ‘atheist’ is a very small and recent phenomena.
The fact that we need a god to worship is the often considered to be the element that produces religion, but my thesis concluded the reverse, that religion is man’s way of trying to find god, and of course he may not succeed. The reality is that God isn’t into religion; he is into revelation and ultimately relationships. I have no intention of being unkind about different religions, but I do think that sometimes man worships the most bizarre gods, which seem to me more the stuff of fairy tail and legend than anything to do with the rationality of God. I did ask in one country why the god that many people were praying to was in a box, I was told that if the god wasn’t kept in the box he would get dirty!
In our search for God we need more than religion, we need revelation. We need God to say ‘Here I am, this is what I am like, and this is what I am doing in my world. This is how I see you, and this is what I am looking for from you, and with you.’ From my perspective, this is what happened when Jesus came, the word of God became flesh (a man), and the word (Jesus) said “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father (God)” He also said, “I don’t do my own will, but the will of the Father (God) who sent me.” In other words if we want to know what God is like then we need look no further than Jesus.
Jesus shows us how ‘the God who is there’ deals with sin, sickness and most importantly, broken relationships. Ultimately, Christianity, if you want to use that word, is not about religion, but about relationships; and those that are broken cause us pain. The vital relationship that is broken is the one between man and ‘the God who is there’, this fractured because of the sin of rebellion, we wanted to be in charge of ourselves no matter what mess we might make, we wanted to be god. That is why we end up making gods in our own image, rather than looking at what has been revealed by the word, Jesus. We also need to be careful not to make Jesus into who we think he is, rather than who he truly is.
In the beginning it is obvious from scripture that God was in very close communion with mankind, talking, walking, and being in relationship with him. Rebellion said ‘I want to do it my own way’ and thus the unique bond was broken. But God was desperate to mend the fracture and so he took drastic action, to restore that relationship required the death of God.
Ultimately, ‘real Christianity’ is as far removed from religion as east is from the west. The reality is that it’s all about relationship, a restored relationship with ‘the God who is there’ making us aware that he is not far away, and can be within us, listening to us, interested in us, talking with us, guiding us and most humbling of all, asking us for our opinion! He says to us, “What do you think?” Because the relationship has been broken for so long it takes time to get to know him again. Just as any broken friendship takes time to be repaired. The amazing thing is as that key relationship is restored with him, he then helps us to restore relationships with other people.
God extends his grace (undeserved favour) to us; that means he is constantly reaching out to us with forgiveness and blessing, often crediting us for our intentions rather than what we actually delivered. We, in turn, need to learn how to pass on grace to others.
My conclusion of a first principal about relationships is knowing that ‘the God who is there’ is all about relationship and very little about religion. It’s about knowing him, talking with him, being with him, and of course, being with his friends. I like being one of God’s friends!
14th February 2010
For Ourlab blog
Editor. A. Brooks