(Author's note: though many of the principles that I write about in the following essay may apply to other religions, I am speaking about the Christian faith.
Information for this essay comes from the following source: the book “Jean Vanier & L’Arche – A Communion of Love” by Kathryn Spink)
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They cry out with their self-righteous rhetoric:
"12 step programs will not work. You need a relationship with God."
Or when you speak about religion, they surely will correct you by saying "religion won't help. You need a relationship with God."
I think that we've all confronted such people.
Such narrow minded comments usually come from right wing fundamentalists who think if you follow their God, on their terms, God will grant you your hearts' desires. Though I have met similar people from main line churches.
I'm not criticizing a relationship with one's God. I think it can make a difference. But there is more to it than between God and the individual.
I have talked and met people who put me off to their faith.
A couple of examples:
I have talked to a man about the Fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. (Galatians 6:22). In his self-righteous arrogance, he refused to enlighten me.
While emotionally hurting, I have met a young minster, though devout, did not have an understanding of the human condition. Nor did she care.
Would Jesus agree with these tactics? Would Jesus agree to this self righteous nonsense? Or would he take the time to explain His teachings? Would he show empathy and understanding to those that were hurting?
These people are doing more harm for their religious cause.
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But what is a right relationship with God? Let's start with a relationship between God and the individual.
The problem with relationships, we see someone as an object. What can I get from him/her? Many of us perceive God the same way. If I pray the right pray, if I'm loyal, God will grant me my desires.
God does not work that way. He is being used.
If it is a right relationship, we want what truly God wants. We are to serve Him, be helpful on His terms.
And with our relationship with God, we need our quiet time, to mediate, soul search, pray. Whatever gets us in contact with our Higher Power. It's individual thing.
But a relationship with God is more than between God and the individual. We need to be around like minded people that we feel comfortable with, who will build us up and not put us down.
We don't learn English if we are surrounded by people who speak only Russian. We don't learn the fine heart of dining, if we surround ourselves with "fast food junkies."
We need to be around people who will help nurture our gifts and talents, our mission, our purpose. And if we are not aware of these gifts, etc., those same people, hopefully, will help us discover these gifts, these talents, that mission.
We need to be around people who will give us strength, comfort and compassion with empathy and understanding when we confront our wounds. And not be so self-righteous judgemental.
These values are principles of community.
Sadly, they are rare. If they weren't, our churches would not be losing their congregations and churches would not be shutting down.
If we are to have a right relationship with God, we need to have a right relationship with those who are seeking our help. We have to stop seeing the "recipients of our faith" as "objects” but rather "subjects."
If the persons are the attention of our interest, most of us see them who need to be "rescued or "saved". We give them what we think they need, not what they actually need. They are "objects".
It is about forcing our values against their will because we feel that what we have to offer has worked for us, it must work for others. We must realize that one’s man’s medicine is another man’s poison.
It is not out of love. It is about control.
As Thomas Merton wrote:”the beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
But if our relationship is right, we should see the “attention of our interest” as "subjects". We see them with needs to be fulfilled. We must give them what they need without giving up our self-respect.
It's about being of service. In many cases, we have more to learn from them than they have to learn from us.
We must practice Taoism's interpretation of the Golden Rule: “Treat your neighbour's gain as your gain; your neighbour's loss as your loss."
If our relationship is right with God, we must practice the principle of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life
A right relationship with God is one of action, motivate by love and service. It's what God truly wants.
We must practice the words of St. Francis of Assisi: "preach always. when necessary, use words."
If our spouses/partners made a promise to be loyal to us and, then, broke it, we would be offended.
But we do the same when we make promises to God through our prayers - i.e. the Lord’s Prayer “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, etc.,” and neglect the sufferings and wounds of His people.
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Finally, a friend from the Saturday morning Positive Thinkers’ group I belong to e – mailed me the following essay. It’s called 10 sentences:
1. God won’t ask what kind of fancy car you drove. He will ask how many people you took to church who didn’t have transportation.
2. God won’t ask the square footage of your house. He will ask how many people you helped who didn’t have a house.
3. God won’t ask how many fancy clothes you had in your closet. He will ask how many of those clothes you gave away to those who didn’t have any.
4. God won’t ask how many material possessions you had. He will ask whether those material possessions dictated your life.
5. God won’t ask how much overtime you worked. He will ask did you work overtime for your family.
6. God won’t ask how many promotions you received. He will ask what you did to promote others.
7. God won’t ask how many degrees you had. He will ask how many people you thanked for helping you get those degrees.
8. God won’t ask what your parents did to help you. He will ask what you did to help your parents.