“God, no matter the cost, I want a deeper relationship with you!”
“Jesus, help me love others like you do!”
These have been the most dangerous prayers I’ve prayed. They’ve completely turned my life upside down.
The first one I prayed sitting in a pew in the summer of 2013. I was spiritually stagnant and no matter how much I did within the congregation, I wasn’t growing much. Once I pleaded this prayer to God from the depths of my spirit, it was like the rug was pulled out from under me. Everything looked different. I lost my bearings and everything religious I had been taught came into question. Some I still agree with. Some I had to put away as they didn’t represent Jesus as I’ve come to know him in the Bible and through my personal walk.
The second one I prayed for about two years. It wasn’t until recently that I was brought to a place that I could actually start living it in some way. God had to clean my heart of all the bigotry and hatred first.
I don’t regret either prayer as an amazing relationship with God has been developing. I wouldn’t have guessed that this would be the way it would unfold, and I can now see how this type of relationship can’t be taught. It can only be received, embraced, and lived in Jesus.
The unfortunate side effects of this is that many religious people I’ve known withdraw from me when I attempt to share the love I’ve found with them. Others say a lot of religiously loaded words that are just hollow now. They try to win me back over to “their side” by justifying their hatred and attempts at guilt and shame. More and more, I feel sad for them because they are continuing to try to mandate God on others through law rather than embrace God and others by love.
Lately, God has been calling me to stand up for some of the people that I use to hate though at the time, I would’ve explained it more like, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” While this is a nice little ditty to recite for us Christians, now I see the effect it has on those we’ve categorized by our human judgments. When this is our approach, we end up dehumanizing people into a faceless, heartless category that we can push to the margins. The truth is, it wasn’t this way with Jesus. He loved the sinner in the midst of their sin. When we focus on a person’s sin foremost, instead of focusing on the person, we define them by our view of sin, thereby judging that they aren’t worthy of Christ until they can somehow overcome their sin.
I could write about this stuff until Jesus returns, but it won’t make a bit of difference unless people allow Jesus to truly invade their hearts. In the end, our empty religious words will be forgotten and the only thing that will have made a difference to someone is how we loved them without reservation.
If you feel spiritually stuck, ask God for that deeper relationship. If you find it hard to truly love, in a very up close and personal way, those stuffed into a sin category, ask Jesus to show you to his kind of love. However, know that if you’re really sincere, your entire life will change.