I’m just finishing up a week of teaching for an HIV/AIDs Intervention School in Newton, KS for a group of students that have a passion to care for those infected with this virus. At the end of four weeks of training they will be off to South Africa to work with AIDs outreaches there. We have had a ball this week, for this is an interesting group of students, and pretty free spirits. I get to be with them for seventeen hours of teaching, and all week long living among them to help walk them out of religious approaches to God and sort out what it means to live related to him as our Father.
Weeks like this are always refreshing to me spiritually as well. How easy it is living in this age to find ourselves trapped in a religious veneer of Christianity and miss the heart of it. Religious thinking keeps us trapped in guilt and shame, harassed by obligations we can never fulfill, bored with empty rituals and in constant pursuit of some new truth that will finally make it alive.
All are fruitless endeavors that will leave us empty.
Jesus didn’t load up his followers with any of these things. In fact, he dismantled them at every turn. He simply demonstrated to them what a life lived in Father’s love looks like. It affected everything about the way he thought and acted and it was so engaging that the disciples were constantly amazed at how God worked through him.
Given the age we live in, we all need constant reminders that Christianity is not a creed to confess, ethics to obey or rituals to fulfill. Reducing our life in him to mere religion will ultimately bore us and we will simply reduce it to attending services or observing disciplines and miss the greatest joy of being his—walking with him every day through the circumstances we encounter and seeing him work in the people that cross our paths.
Christianity at its heart is a daily relationship with the Living God where we grow to know him as he really is and center our lives on his purpose and character working its way into our lives.
We will never learn to live in that reality by sitting through teaching, reading books or talking with others. While those can be helpful, if we are in fact learning to live in him, as substitutes for the lack of it they will always be woefully inadequate.
We have to remind ourselves and each other that Christianity is a life lived in Father’s reality. It is not at its root a theological system, though it does have a coherent theology. It is not primarily an ethical system, though it will teach us to live in God’s righteousness. It is not observing rituals or ethical mandates. We live the life of Christ as we learn to abide in him, like a branch in a vine. He yearns to teach you how to do that. All you have to do is ask him, lean into him every day and watch his glory sort out in the real experiences of your life.
That’s what I’m being reminded freshly this week. I thought you might like a reminder too.