I feel I’ve made a mess of my life, a colossal mess of my life; but all the while I feel God saying ‘don’t worry, everything will be alright.’ Wishful thinking; who can say?
Some people are born lucky it seems, or born privileged with money and connections; they go to the right school, know the right people, have the right accent, live in the nicest areas, enjoy the best of what life has to offer and seem to go from one pleasant experience after another and find themselves in good careers. Some of us are not so lucky; we struggle, we find ourselves depressed, we don’t have money or connections, we don’t it seems really count for much, in worldly terms anyway. What is God’s word for us?
We all dream of making it big or winning the lottery or making our mark and proving to the world that we were right after all, and perhaps they were wrong to dismiss us or hate us or to disregard us as nobodies. It is my belief that God does not regard the well connected, the powerful and the wealthy any more than He regards the lowly, the marginalised and the poor. Unfortunately religion, that sort of watered-down variety that filters through the media and is the traditional way Christianity is portrayed even by some Christians, seems often to be about the rich, the powerful and the high-born, those who in worldly terms seem to matter. What is God’s answer to this?
A relationship with God is something that is beyond what we can really understand and yet at the same time He wants us to feel comfortable with Him, to enjoy His presence and quite simply to be His best mate! It’s far less about religion and far more about a lived reality; if you think Christians only really operate on one day of the week, well you couldn’t be more wrong! Christianity is a seven day a week reality, and something that transcends the everyday; yet God is the God of the mundane and the ordinary as much as He is the God of the exotic and the extraordinary; as human beings we are both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.
Does God only call the important, the rich and the well-connected, is He really a God that only shows concern and respect for the high-born and those deemed important? Perhaps He doesn’t; Paul specifically writes: ‘Consider, brothers, how you were called; not many of you are wise by human standards, not many influential, not many from noble families. No, God chose those who by human standards are fools to shame the wise; he chose those who by human standards are weak to shame the strong, those who by human standards are common and contemptible -- indeed those who count for nothing -- to reduce to nothing all those that do count for something, so that no human being might feel boastful before God.’ (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NJB) We need to remember this when we see Christianity as something the rich and powerful, the seemingly important and those with high social status embrace; God doesn’t pay more respect to them than He does to ordinary people, but religion at one time like many things in life, was seen to be more about the ‘great and the good’ than it was about the poorer or less connected sort of person. This is God’s word for us, that we all count, whether we are from a council estate or a landed estate, whether we are from the projects or whether we live in a house that cost ten million dollars; God is about equality and fairness and justice, when the world is about injustice, unfairness, prejudice of all kinds and often rampant exploitation. I am not exaggerating here, I am merely being truthful and honest. In poorer countries these things are only too obvious, and in richer countries these things exist to a degree but there is a subtlety to them. Having grown up in relative poverty myself, I can talk passionately and dispassionately about poverty and injustice; I even think that the organised churches like Anglicanism and Catholicism don’t really challenge these things and rarely bring them up in any lasting or meaningful way. Sometimes I think that some organised Christianity can itself be the problem; how can a rich organisation, one that owns vast wealth in the form of money, land, property and works of art, amongst no doubt many other things, really understand or side with the poor? John writes: ‘My command to you is to love one another. If the world hates you, you must realise that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice of you has drawn you out of the world, that is why the world hates you.’ (John 15:17-19 NJB) Do humans really love each other? If we did, if we really did, wouldn’t there be less poverty, less division, less hypocrisy and double-standards and certainly less division between the rich and the poor? I certainly think there would at any rate.
So, religion can be one thing, and God thankfully is something usually very different. How did something so profound, life-enhancing and amazing become watered-down religion anyway? I have a thing about this I admit, but not as yet being a churchgoer but at the same time being a dyed-in-the-wool Christian, I feel that much that passes for Christianity, the traditional variety, where you go to a church on Sunday morning, sing a few hymns, say hello to the priest or vicar, just isn’t appealing to people, people like me who have a thirst and hunger for God but feel put off by traditional Christianity and worship. Is Sunday churchgoing all there is to contemporary Christianity anyway? Isaiah writes: ‘Thus says Yahweh: With heaven my throne and earth my footstool, what house could you build me, what place for me to rest, when all these things were made by me and all belong to me? - declares Yahweh. But my eyes are drawn to the person of humbled and contrite spirit, who trembles at my word.’ (Isaiah 66:1-2 NJB) So in a few telling sentences, we have God’s answer to religion-it isn’t just about churches and rituals and human traditions, it is about a real relationship with a real living God who wants from us awe, respect and a humble and contrite spirit. This seems far less about religion, any religion, and much more a reality, a God-centred reality.
What is God’s word for us? God’s word for us is peace, security, happiness, purpose, meaning, equality, justice and many other good things that all humans need and cry out for. I hope I have made my point, that Christianity lived out on a daily and on-going basis and then religion, can be two very different things.