One of my oldest friends posted a comment on yesterday’s post about how God created men and women in his own image, complete with the ability to think and feel and reason, and yet when we use these abilities to make important life-defining decisions people tell us that we aren’t listening to God.
His comment made me realize that I have a lot to say on that subject. It’s not the topic I’d intended for today’s post, but the other stuff can wait.
It was actually something that someone on the worship team said recently that first got me thinking about this. They were about to sing “Rescue,” and he mentioned that a lot of times he doesn’t “feel like” doing the right thing, and in moments like that he relies on God to change his heart and “rescue” him from being unforgiving or selfish or whatever.
It was another one of those flashes of clarity for me.
I’m not trying to be antagonistic or hostile when I point out that A LOT of good Christians won’t have anything to do with organized religion because they feel that the churches are full of hypocrites. It’s not hard to see why they feel that way, but I truly believe that the majority of church people honestly do not see themselves as hypocrites, even when to any non-churchy observer their behavior bears no resemblance to their proclaimed beliefs. It’s like they’re somehow blind to their own duplicity.
As an unofficial student of humanity, this was a mystery I really wanted to solve. Worship-Team-Guy’s comments helped with that. So, here are my conclusions on the matter.
I believe that church people (I think I’ll just call them CP’s) believe that if God meant for them to feel compassion (or forgiveness or tolerance or whatever) in any given circumstance, that He would put that feeling into their hearts so that they could behave accordingly. If a difficult situation arises and what they feel is resentment and a desire to punish someone…well then obviously God must have put those feelings into their heart, since they walk so closely with Him and all. The person/people who caused the resentful feelings must be Wrong and Bad, and it’s just doing God’s work to punish them. If an uncertain situation comes up and the CP feels threatened by something unfamiliar to them, then obviously God MADE them feel threatened because that unfamiliar thing is A Threat and must be destroyed. Just doing the work of Jesus. If circumstances are changing and the CP liked things the way they were before, then God must be telling them that the changes are Wrong and Bad and have to be stopped by any means, up to and including manipulation, deceit and sabotage. It’s GOD’S WORK, people.
This is, of course, a big steaming pile of what cattle leave behind.
Jesus was pretty clear on how we’re supposed to to treat one another. And those 10 Commandments seem pretty clearly defined too. Nowhere in my Bible have I read, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor…unless you’re pretty sure he’s no friend of thine or Mine.”
Christian love isn’t something you “have.” It’s something you DO. It’s a choice you make every day, ESPECIALLY in the difficult situations when your heart is full of resentment at some injustice and you have to decide, right there in the middle of your anger, between grace or vengeance. That’s why they’re CALLED trials. It wouldn’t be much of a test if the Holy Spirit just swooped down and made you FEEL like doing the right thing, would it?
We are personally responsible for every choice we make, every hard truth or convenient lie we tell, every act of kindness or cruelty we commit, every bit of sly manipulation or honest respectful communication we extend to our fellow humans. Not just the humans who are like us, not just the ones on “our side,” not just the wealthy ones or the popular ones or the Republicans or the Americans or the ones who don’t let their kids read Harry Potter books.
As Jesus pointed out, a shiny-clean appearance doesn’t count for much in the eyes of God if your insides are full of lies and spite.
I’ve known for a long time that the quickest, surest way to really get to know someone is to let them behave however they want, with no criticism or negative consequences from you. It doesn’t take some people very long to realize that they are free to treat you however they like, and that’s when you begin to see who they really are underneath the shiny-clean appearance. And when you’ve seen enough, you can decide for yourself whether to keep that relationship or move on.
I’ve had my good long look at organized religion.
I’m moving on.