Someone has asked me why, given all we know about our faith as a relationship with God rather than a works based religion, do we so easily fall back into a works based, religious orientation toward God. I think there are two basic reason for this.
The first is pride. Sadly, pride survives conversion. In a very real sense, sanctification is little more than winning the battle against pride. Pride demands a contest in which it can win. Living under the law promises a game which you can win [or so you think]. If you keep the rules well, then you are winning and you get the glory. It is much like the NFL; we all know it’s a team sport but when that guy enters the end zone with the ball, well, its all about HIM! He even has his own personal “end zone dance” with which to celebrate himself.
The law says we can win and when we win we get the glory. This appeals to and feeds, our pride. A relationship on the other hand is not about rules and winning, it is about relating. Relationships do not work well when one party sees the relationship as a competition or a game to be won. In a genuine relationship there is no winner and loser, only two winners. There is no room for pride. Good relationships are based on selflessness and pride hates selflessness.
The second reason our default position is religious has to do with certainty. A legalistic religion is perfectly certain. When in doubt, check the rules. With enough rules you never have to live with uncertainty. Religion always starts with a few rules and multiplies them for the sake of certainty. Moses started with 10 plus some commentaries to help us apply those 10. By the time Jesus came along those commentaries had become the rules and they had multiplied to over 1000 rules. All for the sake of certainty. Humans crave certainty. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone who has just lost a spouse say, “I just don’t know what I am going to do!” Their fear of an uncertain future rivals the pain of their loss. A religion based on law provides the comfort of predictability and certainty.
A relationship with God, on the other hand, is unpredictable. Emotions get involved, just look at the relationship between God and Moses – lots and lots of sparks! A relationship is dynamic. The best we can hope for most of the time is a dynamic equalibrium. A static relationship is a dying relationship. Relationships require attention far beyond knowing the rules, and love always goes well beyond keeping the rules. Here is the application of all this; do you ever see yourself wishing there were clear rules for how to have a relationship with God?
How often do you feel like you are not winning at being a Christian?
Is this telling you something?