I saw a Tweet on Twitter this afternoon that got me to thinking. The Tweet from a guy called Scott Hurst said, “Refusing to just accept certain premises ‘on faith’ doesn’t make me closed minded, it makes me rational.”
I know that for many of us, religion and the subject of God is a taboo. I find that in our modern society, especially here in the United Kingdom that there are a lot of people who are almost violently opposed to any form of religious teaching, and proudly declare themselves atheist.
In many ways, I find that I can’t really blame them for their determined stance against all things biblical. You only have to look at British history to see how the effects of hundreds of years of subjugation under the power of the church, first the Roman Catholic religious movement under the Pope, and then under the emergence of the Church of England, to realise that the church is largely to blame for much of the pain and suffering of the poorer classes that has led to the bitterness of the British people.
Man has an inherent ability to learn to avoid danger and to steer clear of the things that we have learnt to perceive as detrimental to our survival. This is part of our makeup as the human race, to learn, develop and enhance our existence, through avoiding those things that bring about pain and suffering.
One only has to look at how religion has been at the root of much of the human conflict over the last 2000 years to realise that religion and the church carry a very bad name. In any other situation, we would be publicly calling for the removal and destruction of the organisation which had caused so much loss and destruction, but the aura of a supernatural being seems to act in itself as a deterrent that stops people from publicly denouncing the church en masse.
When it comes to religion and the church I am possibly not the best person to preach. I do not accept that religion is the path to salvation, nor do I consider every church to be the house of god. The simple truth is that man has taken the gospel of Christ and distorted, twisted and interpreted it to mean anything he chooses.
I have myself fallen pray of the judgement of man through sin as a member of the church, and the experience left a sour taste in my mouth and a painful memory in my mind. I personally struggle with any number of things that could be seen by religion as idols of the flesh or wicked ways. I do not walk a path that could be described as righteous or virtuous. I am not what the world has come to expect to see as a Christian believer.
Yet, as much as my failings may be used to highlight my ways, they do not define me. For me, my personal relationship with God is the foundation of my belief. I do not believe that any church or religion defines my salvation, nor do they enhance my spirituality. I am not walking a path of righteousness nor can I be called pure of mind and spirit just because I go into a sanctuary where man believes God resides.
My salvation is alive within me. It accepts my failings and covers my sin through my repentance and acceptance through faith that my saviour died on a cross for the absolution of my sin. I do not need to stand in a line to receive Holy Communion to feel close to my God. I do not have to partake in the works of an organisation to be able to spread the word of my Lord.
As I see it, it is fellowship with mankind that gives me strength. To me, my God lives within me, and all around me. He is not confined to the walls of a cathedral. In this modern day and age there are any number of ways of accessing the teachings of the gospel. There are a variety of channels that offer prayer, support and encouragement without having to engage in meaningless ritual in the guise of some religion.
Yes, there are exceptions to the rule. There are churches today that are built on the word of God and move with the Spirit as it guides them. But this is the sad reality; these kinds of places of worship are the exception to the rule and not the corner stone of reality.
Let me make it clear that I do not hold the hypocrisy of man or the failings of the church to be the fault of my God. We choose freely to become part of an autocratic system of religion. We loose sight of the grace of God and become fixated with the interpretation of scripture as a measure of our own will. We judge and dispense discipline as men. We fail to grasp the truth of the word, and get lost in the translation of it, and it is for this reason that the fault lies squarely at our feet, and not at those of my Lord.
Jesus did not need a majestic temple to teach from. He did not selectively choose whom he taught. He did not dictate a lifestyle, nor did he use rituals to bless those whose lives he touched. He taught that from the teacher down to the beggar we are all equal as sinners. He challenged us to overcome our nature of judgement, and embrace each other as brothers and sisters. He taught that salvation came through Grace of God and faith in the absolution received from the blood of Christ, not through the symbol of the cross. He led by example, sacrificing himself for those he loved, forgiving them even in his moment of despair and weakness for the transgressions against him.
It is this that gives me my salvation. It is my personal relationship with my God that determines my righteousness. It is the realisation of the fact that the crimes of the men and women in the church is not the representation of the God I serve that allows me to see beyond the hurt of my experience and maintain my belief that my God reigns. It is the ability to trust with a blind faith that allows me the strength to forgive those that have hurt me.
I do not harbour any hate towards the people that inflicted those wounds on me. Through the grace I enjoy every day, despite my failings, despite my shortcomings that has taught me that I do not need the church to have salvation. My focus is on my God not on my church.
Yes, I can understand why it is common to find people opposed to religion. I can relate to why people want to stay away from the church, or avoid the pomp and ceremony that is associated with worship today. However, as much as you may try to hide from religion, you cannot hide from God. You may revel in your identity as an atheist, but the truth is that it is only you that you hurt, not the church.
The money, wealth and power of religion cannot buy a place in heaven. Your avoidance of the truth does not make you wiser or more rational as Scott Hurst from Twitter would like to believe. It is your one on one relationship with your Lord that gives you salvation. Burying your head in the sand as a result of your opinion of the church, religion and the actions of mankind is only cutting off your nose to spite your face.
The truth is in the scripture. It is in the word of God that we can learn the difference between ritual and religion and faith and the Grace of God. Being a believer is no easier than learning to read or write. Blind faith is not a natural virtue but something we have to learn and work at. Having a relationship with someone we can neither see nor hear is complex and challenging. No one said that salvation was easy, but then tell me which relationship in life is easy! Do you not have to work daily on your relationships with your partners, friends, colleagues or acquaintances? Does love not take effort and dedication? Why then should it be any different for your relationship with God?
No, it is easy to find fault. It is simple to point a finger. We can hide behind whatever excuse we choose and I speak from experience for this is something I do myself. But it is senseless to choose destruction when I have been given the knowledge and freedom to choose life. I encourage you to take a step backward and look again. Challenge your perception of God, and seek the truth. Avoid finding fault or seeking someone to blame. Mankind are all as weak and corruptible as you or me. We are far from perfect and our actions through history should not be the consideration on which to base your decision.
Watch the two video’s I include with this blog and open your heart, your mind and your ears to the word. Search and you will find, Seek and you will see, listen and you will hear. Not everyone will have the same relationship with God and that does not make you any more or less significant to God. Remember it is your relationship with God and not how man views you in their eyes that counts. Do not allow religion or mistrust to prevent your salvation. Do not allow your chance to have a personal relationship with our saviour to be damaged by the distorted interpretation and views of mankind. Reach out and have faith, he is waiting for you to come home. Consider yourself challenged!