So yesterday I wrote about how for a long time I let the rituals and rule define my relationship with God (you can read that by clicking here). This always…AL-WAYS leads to religion and destroys the beautiful relationship of love we were intended to have with God.
Those of you that have felt the oppression of rituals and rule like I have know that the knee jerk response is to thrown them all away. To toss them all out. To stop going to church, stop having a quiet time, stop praying on a regular basis. Cut, cut, cut. Religion becomes this sludge that has been smothering you and you just want to wash it off.
Often this leads to an isolated spiritual life defined by its freedom. We throw out the old (the religious rituals and rules) but we replace them only with freedom. The problem is that freedom was never intended to be an end to itself. It is supposed to be the by-product of our relationship with Christ, not the defining aspect.
What is the defining aspect?
First the love for God, which then becomes the motivation of our love for others.
Loving God is like joining Him on a journey. The journey with Him becomes who you are. You are a person walking with God. It is as simple and strangely mysterious as that phrase sounds. Loving God is going on a life long walk with Him. There is conversation, laughter, guidance, obstacles, joy, pain. We enter into a relationship with the living yet unseen God. How do you explain that? Impossible besides, yes it is weird and real.
This is not just any journey though. It is a mission. The scripture tells us that God, at His core, is love. This is His defining characteristic.
Not glory. Not power. Not justice. Not creation.
Not laws. Not worship. Not power. Not control.
No. His defining characteristic is love.
Love for His creation. Love within the Godhead (not explaining that one here…sorry). Love.
Simple, sacrificial, unexplainable, unmistakable, unlike any other, love.
Wild, messy, embracing, surrounding, consuming, burning love.
Restoring, healing, building, creating, beautifying, completing love.
The journey we join Him on is a mission of love. He is seeking to restore His relationship with the creation that has rejected Him. As we fall in love with Him we fall in love with His creation and we also long to see it restored. The invitation to the journey started with Abram, continued with the ones He asked to become “fishers of men”, climaxed with the cross and resurrection, and is continuing to build momentum today.
We are on this journey with the One Defined as Love. It is a mission to share His beautiful love with the world.
So where do the rituals and rules come in?
Think of living in love with God as joining Him and His community in building a house.
(The “and His community” is key – because we are not simply joining Him…there is a family on mission with Him and we are joining the family…we are not walking alone…for better or worse).
Back to the house. The world’s relationship with God is this worn out, broken down, nasty old house. God and His family are restoring it. As you work, there will be times when you need to nail up some dry wall; so you will need to pick up a hammer. Other times you are going to need to fix a pipe. A hammer won’t work; so you will need to grab a wrench.
Do you see where this is going?
The rituals and rules we practice are the tools. They empower us on the mission. At times we need one tool; at other times a different one. Sometimes we need to put one down so another can be picked up.
The rituals and rules are never the point. Never.
Joining God in restoring the house is always the point.
He is love. We love with Him. Through His love we will see all things made new.
So let’s enjoy the journey, use the tools, and fall deeper in love with God and one another along the way.