A couple of weeks back I came across a blog post titled A Legal Religion. I read through it once, thought she had some good ideas, read through it again, and completely changed my mind. In a comment under the post I informed the author that I would be writing a response to her note on my blog in the near future. The time has come.
My intention is not to be mean or rude in any way, despite how this note sounds. I’m a little cranky at the moment – and yes, I’m fully admitting that to you all here and now. So please keep that in mind as you read this. My attitude may seem a bit harsh, but honestly I think that may be a good way to appoach this.
“What boggles my mind is how after seeing time and time again that such a lifestyle doesn’t work, some people still believe it does or that it can. That we, the young adults today, were the reason the experiment went wrong.”
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” ~ Psalm 23:4 (KJV)
It seems like our biggest fears come true. You lose the job. The person you love doesn’t love you back. Mom dies. You are suddenly stricken with illness. The scholarship money doesn’t come through. Daddy runs off with his secretary. War breaks out. The house burns. The cancer is back. Stocks plummet. That nagging worry you push away before going to sleep at night suddenly becomes your reality instead of your nightmare, and you find yourself screaming to heaven and wondering where God is and why did this happen.
Well-meaning friends step up and offer what comfort they can, hoping you won’t ask them the one question they can’t answer: why? And if you do, they will most likely give you some sort of explanation about how things just happen, this is a sinful world, etc. etc. etc.
The most common characteristic in all false religion is the ability to progress through works. Sometimes it involves praying, fasting, or complicated rituals. Some false religion encourages horrifying forms of self-abasement. They do these things to please their god, or improve their spiritual condition. The goal is common, regardless of the form it takes: self-improvement.
Working to be pleasing to God is nothing new, and we can find the roots to such practices in the way Cain offered his sacrifice. Remember, the ground was cursed, and God said that only “In toil you will eat of it”, and “by the sweat of your face you will eat bread” (Gen 3:18,19, NASB). The ground would only produce fruit through hard labors and toils. This is what Cain chose to bring before the Lord, and why Cain’s offering was rejected; it was the very essence of works-based effort to please God.
“Heather…? It’s Kallie!” The voice on the other end of the line was extremely excited to be speaking to me. “How are you!? I miss you so much… I’m so happy you’re coming to my wedding! I can’t wait to see you!! And your mom is coming too? Ohhh. Myyy. Goodnessss!! I’m SO excited!!” She chattered on and on about how thrilled she was.
I was happy to hear her voice, too. It had been years. Several, long years since I had talked to her. And even more years had passed since I had seen her in person. I recalled the last time I saw her – the memories came flooding back – she was heading back towards our neighborhood, walking across the main road with her boyfriend. She had a plaid mini-skirt on, her beautiful strawberry-blonde hair was cut a little shorter than shoulder-length, her makeup was heavy, high-top boots, black nail polish. I waved to her… but she didn’t see me. Her boyfriend was head-to-toe dressed in gothic-style clothing: oversized, baggy black pants with pockets and chains covering almost every square inch of them; his hair was black, long, and matted; he had chains and necklaces hanging around his neck and wrists; his fingernails painted black. I remember thinking that she could do so much better than that… she was settling for less than she deserved! I started crying.
“Oh, Heather! I can’t wait to see you! I figured Sadie wouldn’t be able to come since she lives several states away… but YOU are coming! I told Tim all about you! When I got your RSVP back in the mail, I started screaming and jumping up and down in my living room!!” Her excited conversation snapped me out of the reminiscing state I had drifted into. We shared small-talk and remembered some of the “good times” growing up for a few minutes, and then she changed the topic of discussion – her voice turned serious as well.