Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Relationship is the Goal

Romans 9:7
Matthew 25:1-12
Wouldn't it be nice in raising our kids if we had a checklist of what to do and what not to do for guaranteed success. We would then know that if we did xyz, our children would grow up to be strong Christians, with successful careers, and healthy relationships. No parent would ever have to worry about their child straying form the "right" path, falling in with a bad crowd, experimenting with things that should be left alone, or turning away from the faith we raised them to believe in. Of course, the reason this idea is foolish, is because parenting is about our relationship, not a mathematical formula. Relationships are as impossible to standardize and predict as the individuals in them.
In the same way, our faith is a relationship with the Lord, not a checklist of completed tasks. There exist lists of helpful activities that most or all Christians "should" do (my church is often criticized for these lists when individuals relate to them inappropriately), but they work best when we relate to them as we do the suggestions (some stronger than others) in parenting books, not as a magical or mathematical formula allowing us to move on to the rest of our life. Certain suggestions are required for a good relationship: just as a parent will take the time each day to have a conversation with a young son or daughter, a Christian will take the time each day to have a prayer conversation with God. Some apply to only certain people: advice for a bedwetter won't be needed for children without that particular problem, and there exist more prayers and devotions in this world than any individual could hope to incorporate into a personal schedule. Yet each recommendation for a faithful Christian cannot be seen as the end goal or we will end up like the hypocritical Israelites Jesus was so critical of in the Gospels. We will end up as foolish people who want to be with Christ and sacrificed throughout our lives for that purpose but forgot to actually get to know Him. He will turn to us and say that He doesn't know us and so we cannot enter His Kingdom. What a waste!
The better path: build a relationship with Christ Jesus. Build it day in, day out. Use the suggestions you come across as descriptions of activities that others have found helpful in building their own relationship with Him, and might also help you...but some will not. Consider the weight of each recommendation so you can discern which are central to a walk with Christ (e.g. repent of sins on a regular basis) and which are helpful for only a subset of Christians. Then consider whether you might belong to that subset. But throughout the process remember that the focus is the relationship; the goal is to be counted as a member of God's family. The activity is the means to the true goal.

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