Candy blogs: Have you seen the new Facebook “like”?
** Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. **
Do you know that 170,000 people have clicked that like button? I have to admit that I am a little put off by it. It would seem that there are many Christians feeling guilty for not going to church … or something. Of course that Facebook statement is true. We HAVE gone overboard at times with the do’s and don’ts of godliness. But sometimes we can get relationship mixed up with rules.
We can interpret Scripture with a pointing finger, thinking it is more noble or spiritual to be crushed and subdued by God’s Word. Or we can let the cleansing Word wash over us, inspiring and convicting us to be more like his Son instead of guilting us into being less like the world. The movement toward godliness and holiness, and the natural subsequent thought, attitude and lifestyle changes are simply an outward expression of an inward willingness and desire to do things God’s way. Discipline and pointing fingers can only carry us so far, and, as Beth Moore says, our hearts lead us to relationship.
First and foremost … II Timothy 3:14-17
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
That being said, here are some Scriptures that have been interpreted as rules and relationship.
The Rules say, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
Relationship says, “… let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience …” Hebrews 10:22a
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:8a
The Rules say, “You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14
Relationship says: “Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” Malachi 2:15
“My lover is mine and I am his …” Song of Solomon 2:16a
“You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes …” Song of Solomon 3:9
Standing in the Garage
We need the Body of Christ and the Body needs us. Our spiritual gifts are given to encourage the Body, and we need the gifts of others. We need help with blind spots. Our voices and hearts mingle with the Body in worship together. It is in the Body that we celebrate victories and are exhorted and encouraged in trials. We hear the Word of God on a consistent basis; over time, we see growth and change. We can do more for our communities and the world together than we can alone. Our combined spiritual gifts are powerful! We serve, we give, we fellowship, we love and are loved.
We should be standing in the garage out of longing, not obligation. And not hoping to turn into a Christian by osmosis, but eagerly participating in an active, healthy Body of Christ. If you feel guilty or obligated about going to church, check yourself. Is it the wrong Body for you? Can you still hear the Lord’s voice leading you? Are you afraid God will ask something of you?
A Meaningless Piece of Paper?
My husband and I have loved each other for 34 years. We have worked hard at knowing each other, meeting each other’s needs, and learning to love each other. It’s been a long, hard road. But I don’t look at marriage like a trap or a box … or a rule. I don’t look at other men and wish I didn’t have to stay faithful to my husband. I don’t complain about only having one sexual partner. I don’t see our aging and think of trading him in for a younger model. Our marriage certificate is not meaningless to me. I LONG for my husband. I WANT to spend time with him. We CHOOSE each other every day because we have spent a lot of time together building and maintaining a relationship. The result is more longing.
His voice is so familiar to me, his touch so loving, his quirky ways so dear, his admiring glance so melting, his hard work shows so much caring … why would I ever want anyone else or reduce our relationship to a rule?
Letting our hearts lead us to relationship with our Heavenly Father is a far cry from being dragged kicking and screaming by obligation. God sees you. He knows you. He wants sweet communion, a sacred romance, not endless days in court. Beth Moore says He wants to thrill and satisfy your soul, delight you and fill your cup to overflowing. Let your heart lead.
For those reading from somewhere else:
Thanks and hello to all my new blog followers! I love it when you stop by and leave comments!
5 thoughts on “Rules or Relationship? Obligation or Longing?”
I never thought of that statement as a complaint against church or as an excuse not to attend but rather as a wake-up call to people who think they are believers because they attend church. I am not sure where you are from, but here in the “Bible Belt” of the South, if you ask many people whether they’re Christians, the answer will be something like, “Yeah, I’ve gone to church all my life” — which, of course, is not the same thing at all — someone is not a Christian just because they go to church — which I think is what that statement is trying to say.
But a person who is a Christian should go to church, for all the reasons you mentioned and more.
I would encourage the above commenter by saying that no, all churches are not the same. But you also get out of it what you put into it. My husband and I aren’t goers and doers — we do attend church services and some fellowships, but we’re just not inclined to go to every social function the church or the different groups in the church have. But for the people who do, they’re naturally going to be closer because they spend more time together. Relationships are built on time spent together, and you’re not going to get any closer to people you don’t spend time with. 🙂 Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.”
Hi Laura Lee ~ thinking more long-term has been the key for me. It’s kind of like “I will love being out of debt more than I hate cooking” for me. I don’t like cooking at home more, but I do love the thought of being totally debt-free faster. So I am willing to do more cooking.
“I will love feeling lighter and stronger more than I hate exercise and fewer potato chips.” LOL!
Hi Barbara ~ I always love your insight. This interpretation never crossed my mind. I guess I was looking at the specific people who “liked” the page; most of the ones I saw were Christians who didn’t go to church and had a beef about it. 🙂 Either way, being connected to Jesus is the focus. So glad you stopped by!
I can certainly understand why so many Christians drop out of church. I can’t tolerate it for very long, which is why I work on Sundays for half the year. I’m closer to my non-christian friends at work than I am to the people in my own church. And yet I’m too discouraged to go look for another church because, in my experience, they are all alike.
Churches are like high school. There’s the “in” crowd and there’s everyone else. If you’re not “in” then nobody cares about you. Even if I had something to contribute to the body, they wouldn’t care.
I would wish a more encouraging Body of Christ experience for you, Christy. I read this blog post today: http://donnasavage.blogspot.com/2010/06/learning-more-about-community.html
Have you cared and encouraged the people in your church? It might be a place to start.