Kingdom Principle: Relationships have Rights, Religion has Rules….
Christianity is a religion that redefines your rights based on the rule of the King.
|Hosea 1:2-10||Psalm 85||Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)||Luke 11:1-13|
The lectionary texts this week are rooted in the rights of a relationship. But I don’t want you to confuse that with the often quoted ,yet in-effective quip “Christianity is not a religion it is a relationship. The relationships that are addressed this week are ones which establish rights that lead you to a deeper understanding of the rule of God.
If you can take the time, read these past blogs to lay a foundation for the Kingdom principle of this week. The kingdom is constantly in motion (the concepts of flow & favor in relationships) posted May 3, 2013 Knowing God’s purpose gives us our purpose (the concepts of covenant and relationship) posted July 16, 2012 Justice & Righteousness supersede Peace & Prosperity (the concept of how under God’s rule you don’t always get what you deserve) posted Oct. 2 2012.
It’s the time of year where over 30 new relationships are formed in my life in a matter of less than a week. This infusion of expectations, associations, complications, and exchanges is compliments of A.Y.S.O. – as I am the coach of my three boys – so in one week, 30 plus families will enter a “contract” relationship with me for the next 3 months. These relationships are not personal… I have not chosen then, with the exception of maybe one or two, nor did they choose me. However, I have a role to play and so do they. If we all fulfill the roles and expectation then our relationship will be successful, if we do not – it can fail. I used to think, that if I was a great coach, and went out of my way to love the players, serve the parents, it would result in building outstanding relationships with these new families. My hope was not a secret, I desired to maintain these relationships as a witness for Christ, beyond the soccer season. I can not say who is watching from a distance, but I can say that in over 5 years of this year infusion, I can count the number of families that we are in regular social contact is less than 5…. The reality is that we entered into a contract for 3 months and once that contract is fulfilled, the relationship is optional. God does not enter contracts, he established Covenants.
Many believers attempt to live in relationship with God based on a contract understanding…. Where both parties have obligations to perform duties and expectations to fulfill and if someone breaches the contract then the relationship is nullified. It is for this reason, that I no longer see Christianity as a relationship rather than a religion. The current view of relationships is so fractured and weakened that to defend the faith as a relationship is no longer a cultural advantage. (I’m not going to take the time to defend this, but a few minutes on social media and understanding texting as a form or communication, further David Kinnaman has de-mystified why 20-somethings are no longer getting married, finding careers, moving out or buying homes and having children… and you can read another excellent article on religion vs. relationship …) The modern view (coming out of the 60’s & 70’s) of religion is that it is a set of rules and regulations establishing a life of do’s and don’ts in order to earn your way to heaven. This lead evangelicals to establish and separate Christianity as distinct from other religions…. While I get this thinking, I have also over the years of increased community relationships, come to engage regularly with Hindus and Muslims, Agnostics and Atheists…. I am yet to meet anyone of faith or even without faith who is anti-relationships when it comes to how they approach God and faith. Meaning that those who are practicing religion are doing so in a relational way. (There is a truly long tangent emerging here…. Let me return to topic)
Covenant is a relationship that can not be broken; it can be violated, but again not broken. Covenant is an aspect of Religion. While I have said elsewhere that Covenant establishes authority that is based in relationship, the Covenant itself is not simply a relationship it operates like a religion. I think people today are crying out for religion, because relationships are failing often and terribly in so many aspects of their lives. I think this is a deeper source of contention to the debate on same-sex marriage, (another tangent) and the reality of a divorce rate being greater than 50%) To the texts this week:
Hosea is called by God in to a covenant relationship with Gomer…. It is not the relationship alone that validates it is the Covenant or else the names of those children would not be so grievous…. In Psalm 85 we see that God is in relationship with the land as much as the people. This relationship with the land, goes beyond the people that dwell on the land but includes them based on the Covenant. In Luke we see the concept of prayer and community…. the underlying principle being presented by Jesus is just how foolish it would be not to lean into and trust the relationship that can not be broken, that is the Covenant relationship of the Holy Spirit. So ask, seek and knock – the door will be open. In Colossians, Paul establishes the foundations of this covenant. It is here that we can get lost theologically, then be tempted to simply the religion into a set of steps or “water down” the relationship, saying “All you need is to be forgiven by God, and all you have to do is ask”. Rather – here I want to see that we need to enter into the fullness of the relationship, and Paul shows us the bookends of the relationship in verses 13-15. Forgiveness and Heaven. This is the doorway of Christianity as a relationship, but the door was intended to be entered, not simply monitored. To be in relationship with God is to be forgiven, and to be in relationship to bring heaven to earth. If we see this as the need to be in relationship, then we leave everything else as a matter of choice. The Covenant bridges the gap and fills in the process between the bookend, or helps you to walk on the other side of the door. The Covenant is found in the Psalm – Love and Faithfulness, Righteousness and Peace… these concepts are to rule your life – these aspects are the backbone of True religion. In previous generations– religion was outcast as information, while relationships were to be sought as important, however today religion is being rediscovered as intriguing and relationships are being sought which are intimate. The true intimacy of being in relationship with the King is found in the religion of Christianity, which redefines all relationships. To overcome the pressures and challenges of this life you are going to need to be rooted and built up in Christ, knowing him as Lord (religion) then you will overflow with thanksgiving enjoying the relationship with him which is intimate.
God’s Covenant relationship is based on a religious paradigm of do’s and don’ts. This Covenant is upheld by God’s faithfulness, yet if we are unfaithful then we will not enjoy the fruit of the relationship. God’s Kingdom has come and redeemed all things that are covered by his rule and reign. This again is a religious understanding of right standing. In fact, in this right standing anything you ask for is granted…
This week –
Take account of your relationships…. Who are you in relationship with? Who have you lost contact with? With whom are you in relationship that does not share your faith perspective?
Take account of your religion…. The Bible calls us to practice Religion that God considers pure and faultless (James 1:27)… this is to look after orphans and widows and to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. How else do you practice religion – is attending Sunday service religious for you, do you pray religiously…. If not why not? Is there something that sets your relationship with God apart from every other relationship? If so how would you explain that to another?