The Narrow Roads Feb. 2015

Bob_Anton_Narrow_Road

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and the topic of religion came up.  I know, it’s one of the two things you’re not supposed to talk about if you want to keep your friends, but I can’t pass up a question on the subject.  My friend, who would describe himself as a believer in God, has run afoul of his Church because he failed to follow certain religious practices.  A Church leader has warned him that he has offended God by not regularly attending Church.  He wanted my opinion on the subject.  I warned him, that my answer might surprise him.  You see, I believe that the bible teaches that even if we attend Church every day and observe all religious practices flawlessly, that does not guarantee a right standing before God.  I told him that it all boils down to one simple word; relationship. 

Let me give you a simple if somewhat exaggerated example.  Let’s say you’re getting married.  Just prior to the big day, you sit down with your father and ask him for advice.  After all, he and mom have been married for 30 years and they seem happy enough.  Dad tells you that the secret to their successful marriage is simple.  Each day, dad gets up early, makes a cup of coffee just the way mom likes it and serves it to her in bed.  And every morning as she drinks her coffee, he tells her “I love you”.  He’s done it for 30 years and never missed a day.  Mom seems happy enough and that’s seems good to you.

So the first morning following your big day, you get up early, make coffee just the way your bride likes it and serve it to her in bed.  As she sips the coffee, you tell her “I love you”.  She smiles and all is right in the world.

For the next year, you faithfully follow your dad’s advice.  You never miss a morning cup of coffee nor fail to tell your wife “I love you”.  Your wife seems happy and your marriage runs smoothly.  Then one morning you awake to find that you’re out of coffee.  As you enter the bedroom, your lovely wife notices that you are not carrying the morning cup of coffee.  You sit on the edge of the bed in your usual spot and begin to say what you always say “I love you” but the words seem strangely empty.  Finally words well up from your heart. “Honey”, you say.  “I’m sorry that I didn’t make you coffee this morning, but we ran out.  You know I’d do anything for you and that I love you so much.  You mean the world to me.  You’re always there for me, caring for me when I’m sick and supporting me in all that I do.  I don’t know what I would ever do without you.  I need you and love you more than you will ever know.”

Now, you tell me.  How do you think your wife would respond to your confession?  Do you think that she would be upset about the coffee and your failure to say your daily “I love you”?  Or do you think that she would be overjoyed at your spontaneous confession of love for her that flowed from your heart?  If you chose the latter, then you understand the difference between religion and relationship.

Religion is following a set of guidelines in an effort to make God happy with us.  If we fail in some way, then we assume that God will be angry.  This is the problem my friend is facing.  However, we also assume that if we keep the rituals faithfully, all will be well between us and God.  However, this is not at all what the Bible teaches.  Throughout the Bible, God rebukes His people for serving Him with their lips and not with their hearts.  In other words, although they carried out their religious practices, their hearts where far from God.  Jesus had the same complaint about the most religious people of His day.

Our religion should reflect our heart for God and should be in conformance with His character. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  James 1:27  If however, our religious practices devolve into passionless rituals and rote prayers, then God is not pleased no matter how consistent we are in doing them.  Since God readily sees our hearts, He is not fooled by our hypocrisy. Rather, as we often see in the pages of Scripture, He is disgusted by it.

God seeks to have an intimate relationship with every man, woman and child.  His word encourages us to seek Him and to know Him personally.  We must never allow familiarity with and repetition of our religious practices, to overshadow this imperative.  If we do then we have shortchanged both God and ourselves, of the vibrant relationship that He desires to have with us.

I’ve invited my friend to come to Church.  Not because it will appease God, but rather because it is my hope that he will meet God.  A God who desires to have an intimate relationship with him.  If you don’t already know God, it’s not too late to start a real relationship with Him.  Why not pick up His book and have a heart to heart with Him today.  You think about that.  God bless you and…

See you on the road

Bob Anton: Christian Motorcyclists Association

For more information on CMA or questions or comments concerning this column, please contact Bob Anton at 631-897-8122 or baftmny@aol.com

Leave a Reply