- Rodney Lee Mills
Relationship versus Religion
Hope can be placed in many things. Some people have placed their hope in others while some have placed their hope in things they own or what they do. Where do you place your hope? If you are like a lot of people in this world, you may place your hope in a religious faith of some sort. There are countless religions out there and some argue that they all say the same thing, “Be a good person, be kind towards others, and do the following (things).” Personally, my perspective is that religion is not about being good, being kind to others or even about a completing a checklist of things to be accomplished. Instead, religion should be about building a relationship with our Creator.
A few years ago, I was asked if I could speak to some youth at a Christian church I attended. It was an honor to be asked but the responsibility of speaking to such an impressionable group gave me a bit of hesitation. What could I say to this group of teens that would have some substance in their life? As I pondered the possibilities, it came to me that I should talk about relationship. I quickly put my thoughts to paper and prepared for the weekend event.
I started off with the question, “Who is in a relationship or would like to be in one?” As you can imagine, almost every single teen raised their hand. I asked them what they like about being in a relationship. They quickly began to shout out things they did in a relationship such as going out on dates, talking on the phone and reading each other’s letters/emails (texting wasn't around back then). I addressed each of these situations individually and broke down the pluses and minuses of each. For example, they mentioned talking on the phone. They said they liked it because it gave them the opportunity to talk to each other about their desires, troubles, and share how much they cared for one another. The downside was that they were not able to see each other or experience the moment together in person. I asked them how they resolved the issue and they said they would go out on dates. The downside to dating apart from the obvious costs is that they could not always be with each other everywhere they went. This is where old letters or emails came into play. They were able to read them and remember how they felt overtime. Those letters and emails were black and white examples of the love they shared for each other.
I then asked them if they carried around a checklist of these things they wanted to do. They laughed and asked why anyone would need a list. I shrugged my shoulders and said that they mentioned a lot of things and if those things were not done would their relationship not be valid? Once again they laughed and said, “Of course not. We do those things because we want to get to know that person better not to show them that we are in a relationship.” I then closed the lesson with the following thoughts:
In the same way you love to talk on the phone, God loves to hear your prayers. Sure He already knows your needs and desires but because He is in a relationship with you, He wants to hear your prayers. In the same way you love to read letters and emails, God has provided a Bible that provides the foundation of your faith and is filled with His plan for your life and just how much He loves you. In the same way that you like going out on dates, going to church or a Bible study provides the same opportunity to get to know Him better. For the same reasons why we don’t treat these actions as a checklist to prove we are in a relationship, why do we treat prayer, reading the Bible or going to church as a checklist to be completed void of a personal relationship with God? We don’t do these things to complete a checklist but rather to get to know Him better.
I know it sounds ridiculous when I put it that way. But how many of us just go through the motions when it comes to our faith? Maybe some of you only go to church on Christmas and Easter. If that is the case, how would your marriage or relationship be if you only did something together twice a year? Please don’t take this the wrong way. I too have not always lived up to these standards. I have to constantly ask myself, “Is my relationship with God growing, stagnant, or declining?” The answer to this question is not a direct correlation of whether or not I did these things (prayer, church, and reading my Bible) but rather the condition of my heart as I did these things. I have personally found that when my focus is on getting to know God better through building a personal relationship with Him, I truly find satisfaction. I hope you will find that satisfaction too.