Blog #1 "Returning to Christ"
Some Christians, and even Christianity itself, pushed me away from Christ for a long time. Things I saw, and experienced, in the church, and even in other faiths, soured my own relationship with God. But it's important to understand that not only did I allow this to happen, I actively participated in allowing my feelings to be "hijacked" by focusing on all the wrong things. It's so easy to let a person, or a religion, or sect, hijack our own relationship with God. Maybe we see a very vocal person, claiming to be Christian, espousing hate for a certain group and we then allow ourselves to question Christianity, as if we should just allow someone, anyone, to be a sole representative for a large and diverse group. Or was it an experience at a church that left you feeling totally judged and separate from the Grace Christ offers us? Whatever it may have been, we mustn't surrender our own faith because anything in the world might have temporarily affected it.
It's so sad to see someone turned away from God because of the way others interpret, and practice, their views of religion. It's a somewhat odd thing if you think about it. With other, more mundane, subjects, it doesn't seem quite as common to allow others to define our relationships. Yet, for some reason, when it comes to God, we allow ourselves to change OUR relationship with God based on someone else's relationship with God. If we allowed this in our daily life, there wouldn't be much to do because in almost every activity, there is a 'bad example'. Rude drivers don't mean I give up on driving. Seeing a parent do things I absolutely disagree with doesn't mean I'm suddenly soured on parenting. In fact, seeing others make "mistakes" makes me want to be more aware of my own, to strive to be better myself. Yet, with religion, and specifically with our relationship with God, it seems we often react differently.
There are so many examples one can point to if you want to make an excuse to stop working on your relationship with God. Child molesters in the church, discriminatory laws, hateful interpretation of doctrines...the list goes on. I think, however, that we all use these things as excuses to get out of the hard work of developing our own spiritual path. It's easier to say, "Look at them! Look what these believers say, and then look what they do. I don't need that. I could never be like them". That still has nothing to do with YOUR personal relationship with God. If you walk away at that point, you're giving them something that is actually yours. You're conceding that they're in control and that they get to define things. What would you do if your child asked about a hate filled person claiming a certain group was going to hell? Would you allow them to rule over you? Would you tell your child that God doesn't exist and that we aren't 'religious'? Or, would you confront the issue and help your child , empower them, to develop their own relationship with God and decide themselves if God is one of hate or love?
It may seem like an obvious thing, at first glance, that we should focus on what God provides and not what other people think they know. But hate and divisiveness, and even apathy, are insidious things. They creep into us when we are distracted and they grow like weeds. Before you realize it, even though you thought you were aware, you begin to let judgement and hate seep into your soul and displace the love and tolerance than were once ideals. Have you ever caught yourself thinking, or even saying aloud, something totally different than what you really felt, while driving? I only bring up the example to show how fragile our assumptions are about how solid our relationship with God is. If a simple thing like driving can elicit rage or judgement, how much more so things of much more importance?
Maybe you saw someone do something at church that just stuck with you. You thought it didn't really bother you much, that it's just 'one person', but then you realize you're not really feeling as excited about going to church the next week. Maybe you're even finding different things you could use as an excuse not to even go. These are the subtle ways we give over our faith to other people, and situations. We may intellectually say we will not allow others to define what we think, that we will not judge them either, and that we will be open to our own relationship with God, but it is wise to be aware that we need to rely on God, and not our own strength, to get through these temptations.
Work to take away the barriers that others build, but we empower, that try to sour your experience of God. Allow God to determine your relationship, and not the passing spirit of a passing time. A hijacker's power lies in your decision to let him aboard. Without your decision to allow someone to step between you and God, he remains a powerless character in a play that has no lasting reality.
Pr Rob Brown, Quiet Grace Mission