Sick of Religion? Week 4: Devotional Day 3
DAY 3 – Wednesday
Mark 2:18-20; Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:4-10
Let’s define “religion” as behavior and belief designed to get favor from God. Where do you see “religious” tendencies in your life? What would be the “new” way of behavior and belief that counters those tendencies?
My wife and I have an affectional, playful ritual that we’ve grown to enjoy. Megan would ask, “Why do you love me?” half-seriously. I would say, “Because I love you. You don’t earn my love, I choose to give it to you no matter what.” She would then say something like, “Would you love me if I got in a horrible fire and burned my face beyond recognition?” I’d reply, “Yes, of course!” Then I’d turn the tables and ask, “Would you love me if I was just a noxious cloud of sentient green gas?” At which point she’d punch me in the shoulder, which I take to mean, yes.
I say this was half-serious because at root, we all want to know that we are loved no matter what, which is serious business indeed. I know that Megan likes to hear it when I say that I love her because of her sense of humor, her pretty face, or the like (which I do say), but over time those things may change. In fact, any relationship that’s built on what I get out of it is one that is subject to change (don’t get me on my soapbox about why some marriages fail). True love is love that chooses to love, sacrificially and without condition, not that smarmy, sexually-charged facsimile churned out by mass media nowadays (oops, got on my soapbox).
And that’s the fatal error of religious thinking: it assumes relationship based on what is earned. No wonder religious people tend to be miserable; they live in a constant tension of always having to please, one misstep away from losing favor. Many of us can recognize how tragically unhealthy and unhappy it would be to approach relationships with our spouses, friends, and parents as though we have to earn their favor, how much more so with God?
How much of your spiritual practices are motivated by earning God’s love? What would it look like to instead have spiritual traditions and practices that are about making room to know and experience the Father’s heart?