Making the religion your own

Feb 21, 2011

In the documentary, ”Face to Face with Carl Jung” Part 1,[1] the pioneering Swiss psychiatrist, was asked if he believed in God. Then eighty-four he answered, “That is difficult to answer…I know… I don’t need to believe.” How many of us can say that I know God? I would guess that many would say we believe in God; few would say I know God.

I’ve written in the past that beliefs are the gateway to the Life of the Spirit, but not the life itself. I can’t state this strongly enough: Christianity is not a set of beliefs, it is a way of life. If you are content to sit in your pew every Sunday and hold on to your beliefs, rather than follow Jesus, you are choosing to come to the table and not eat of the bounty offered. Or in other words: beliefs bring you to the table of the Lord, but you have to eat the meal offered to taste for yourself what a relationship with God really means, beyond what you’ve read or heard about it.

Going beyond the inherited religion of your childhood, beyond the tenets of your particular denomination, into a life given over to God, will bring you into the fullness of who you were created to be, if you follow the way as Jesus called us.[2] If we follow Jesus, we would emulate these aspects of his life: a deep relationship with God by whose will he lived his life, prayer time alone, helping others through healing, sharing what he knew to be true, and serving the marginalized and the poor.[3]

Is your loyalty to the church or to Jesus Christ himself? Following Jesus means stepping out of our preconceived notions of who God is and what Jesus would ask us to do and be. It means turning inward to God’s voice inside of us and following that voice above all others, even the religious voices. This takes hard work, practice. First, the practice of listening to God requires us to calm way down inside, to set aside our own desires, to ignore the other voices within us and focus on what God is calling us to. This is prayer, but more than prayer, it is communion with God. In addition we hear what God is saying to us through study of the Bible.

Secondly, there is the practice of love, not just for the people that are easy to like, but also for our enemies. To love means to forgive, to live with gratitude, to hold someone else’s fate as important as our own. Through the practice of love eventually the Holy Spirit will transform us from the inside out so that we can actually love every one we meet.

Thirdly, we need to be vigilant about our own behavior and thoughts. When they are not loving, we need to lift them up to God to transform that inner negativity and its underlying causes.  We need to absolutely trust God. This means releasing all anxiety and fear.

Fourthly, we need to surrender everything we are and are to become to God. We need to give up every objection we have to what is in our lives. We need to let go of our own agendas and let God’s provenance prevail.

This is not easy work. It requires faithfulness on our part and transformation on the part of God. The rewards, however, are worth all the effort. As we are transformed by following Jesus and allowing God to act in our lives, we find ourselves living in the kingdom where connectedness and love, bounty and work, blessings and knowing all intersect. We are not just tasting the bountiful meal set before us, we are enjoying every bite of every course. We are fulfilled as we are transformed into the people we were created to be, not cookie cutter specimens, but real, loving people doing what God knew all along that we could do.

Then, like Carl Jung, we know God.

[1] Available on You Tube

[2] John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life.” NIV

[3] Matthew 25:40 “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” NIV

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