Saturday, December 26, 2009

Relationship vs. Research - Part 4

We take our religion with clear-cut codes and measures. We like religion that quickly satisfies every question with easy answers and neatly reduces every issue, question and debate to a fixed position. We would have religion that requires little thought or deliberation. We don’t want the responsibility of a living, breathing, unpredictable relationship on our hands that challenges our theological equations.

Religion is managed, controlled and predictable; especially religion with lots of regulations. Is this is why we often choose regulations over relationship? We know what to expect with regulations – no surprises. Religion affords predictable patterns, uniforms and uniformity. Relationship allows for the unanticipated. A religion of regulations accommodates death. Relationship makes room for life.

Why did some early Christians seem to have difficulty letting go of the Law? We tend to have the idea they were seeking to be delivered from the oppressiveness of the Law, but in part they clung to it. Why? - Predictability with no surprise seems to make no demands on faith.

Armed with a list of regulations, I can read the Bible and pray in private. I just need to get the information in my head. It is mere cerebral engagement. But when these black and white, clear-cut, plainly written codes are joined with God’s intent to put his Law on our hearts (e.g., Heb. 8:10), there is a new dynamic - enters ambiguity and the need for discernment, which requires something more than private Bible study. Now faith is required for discerning truth. And messier still, relationship is required – relationship not only with God, but with others who too have hearts of writ.

Discerning truth requires more than rigid adherence to regulation. Now faith is necessary for truth to be known. Now relationship is required, with dialogue, fellowship, praying and reading with others for discernment. If the Law is written on hearts of flesh, then hearts of flesh must be known to know the Law. Is God saying that our relationship with him is affected by our relationship with others?

Give me a plain list of regulations and codes, be they ever so difficult, and I will not have to be in close relationship with others. It becomes my Bible and my prayer time. It will be like the words of a country song, “Me and Jesus got our own thing goin’. We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.”

With hearts of flesh as a medium, relationship and dialogue are required. Now, for example, as a North American male, I must begin to see through the eyes of North American females to hear the Word of the Lord. Have I heard the Word of the Lord if I don’t know how the poor see and read the Word? Now dialogue is required with Latin American saints and believers in West African, and the church in Indonesia. I must be in relationship with believers in denominations apart from my own. You and I have no monopoly on truth. God has so arranged things, that in order to be well rounded in his Word, we must do so by way of relationship.

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