Matthew 10:36 Your enemies will be right in your own household.
2 Timothy 3 1You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.
We were created for relationships. God created Adam, and when He realized Adam was alone, He created Eve to be his companion. Together they were to live together, had the power to create life together, and had a relationship agreement to work together to accomplish life. Life is relationships … first with parents, then with friends, and then with the world around us.
As a Christian, I believe the greatest relationship of all is with God. Recently, I told someone that God hates religion, and they were surprised that I would, as a clergy person, say such a thing. Yet, if you look at Scripture closely, God is not happy when we trade Him for something found in this world. He calls this idolatry. Religion often displaces God and takes first place in our lives. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were great examples of this. They were more concerned about keeping the laws of God than they were to pursue a relationship with Him. Same thing happens in our day. People go to church, adhere to a moral code the church teaches, and give to worthwhile projects … all of which could be a substitute for the real thing, ‘God Himself.’
Often, when I ask people to describe their relationship with God, they usually will cite some Scripture to identify a characteristic of God, but rarely do they ever put into their own words what their relationship is like with God. Ask yourself that same question. How would you describe your relationship with God? Some of the worst cases of spiritual relationship abuse are within the clergy … people you would think would have a close relationship with God. Yet, this is often not the case from my experience … including myself. Ministry becomes the God of most clergy. They love the authority it gives them, the status, and the gratitude of being a success at leading people. Now, I realize that is harsh, and it does not define all clergy, but the tendency is there for ministry to become a mistress in some lives of our clergy. In Matthew 23, Jesus did not hold back when He addressed the clergy of His day. He called them vipers and deceivers, and open graves for people to fall into. To me. religion can be described in the same manner. Why? All because of relationship.
God does not want compliance to church attendance, nor is He impressed by someone being a staunch voice for a religious doctrine or practice. His number one request of us is not to become religious but instead He invites us into a relationship with Him. This was the backbone of the Evangelical movement … to know God, and to make Him known. Early on, I realized that religious people … who are kind people, generous people, and caring people … are often the most blind people on earth. Why? Because all those attributes are good, but they can replace God as their source and people live on their reputation of displaying them. No idol is a friend of God. He detests idols because they are like a mistress or a lover that comes between the marriage of a man and woman. God considers His relationship with His creation as a prime source for relating love, forgiveness, care, and redemption/restoration.
Marriage is that kind of relationship since those attributes should be front and center in our marital relationship. We all know when these characteristics are missing because we end up wandering or ending the marriage. All marriages today will experience a 51% failure threat … it isn’t hard to figure out why. The love is gone, there is no forgiveness for human errors, the caring for the well-being of another has long been dried up, and the redemption/restoration is no longer important. Rather than restoring my weather-beaten relationship, I would rather start over. God experiences all these relationship failures when His creation is more religious than in their genuine pursuit of Him.
Let me finish these thoughts on relationship this way. At the end of each life there will be a memorial service of some kind by our families and friends. What is said at that service will be indicative of how we understood the importance of relationship. When we stand before God Almighty to give an account of how we lived our lives, what will we say to these questions that He might ask us?
1. Did you love me and accept my invitation for salvation in My Son Jesus?
2. Did you pursue Me to know Me, to love Me, and to Obey what I told you?
3. Did you love and serve your family and those in your life?
4. Did you live your life with forgiveness and reconciliation, all the while establishing peace among the people in your life?
Of course, these questions are based upon relationship. First with God, and then with our fellow humans. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, how did he answer? Did He answer to keep the law, be more religious than most, be more productive in making disciples, build churches and spread the Gospel? No … He kept it to the importance of relationships.
Matthew 22 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Did you catch that last statement? All of the Bible (law and prophets) are based upon it. (Remember, the New Testament at the time was not written when Jesus spoke it, but would be included later.)
All of Scripture is based upon the relationship of God and His creation. So, if our relationships are failing, we need to go back to the source of all relationships … God. He is the ultimate restorer of anything that has been breached.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler