Inspired by anonymous commenters…
As best as I can figure, we humans have two possible ways of relating to God:
1. A business relationship
2. A family relationship
A family relationship is based upon the the nature of the persons in the relationship. A business relationship is based upon the quality of the transactions between the parties, without regard to the nature of the persons on either side of the transaction.
As I understand it, God intends a family relationship with people, but people seem to prefer a business relationship with God. Why? I think it has to do with pride and control. In a business relationship, we can maintain both our pride and our sense of control, but in a family relationship, there is no place for pride or control.
If the nature of our relationship with Him is transactional – in other words, a business relationship – then we can maintain control of the relationship by trading value for value with Him; our inate inferiority to Him is a non-issue in the relationship as long as our transactions are evenly balanced.
But if the nature of our relationship to Him is familial, then the difference between Him and us is fundamental to our relationship; His superiority to us in every way puts Him in complete control of the relationship. He is forever Father and we are forever children.
In a business relationship, whatever inequalities may exist between “buyer” and “seller” are immaterial, as long as each party trades value for value. In a family relationship, the weaker party is dependent upon the stronger; the child is dependent upon the parent.
A business relationship evens the playing field between both parties in the transaction, a familial relationship highlights the inequalities between the parties. A business relationship is maintained by the fidelity of both parties to the standard of “value for value”. A familial relationship is sustained by love.
In a business relationship, as soon as one party ceases to offer value for value, the relationship is over. In a familial relationship, no action or lack of action can change the fundamental reality of shared blood, shared bone, shared flesh.
In general, people don’t like having their inferiority and dependence spotlighted. That’s why they prefer a business relationship with God. And that’s why every religion in the world exists – to manage and control the relationship with God
In my experience, most Christians operate a business relationship with God. Though they may protest, their language betrays their core beliefs about the relationship. For example, here’s a quote from an anonymous commenter:
You could become a great man if you would bow your knee and yield to the One who made you – because after your short years here you will face Him. Fall on the Rock before the Rock falls on you.
Implicit in this comment is the belief that God is Gonna Get You! You’re gonna PAY!
Oddly, people seem to like this message. Do good, and all will be well with you. Do bad, and He will come down on you like a ton of bricks. In fact, the reason you are not getting blessed by God is that you are not making the payments God demands in exchange for His blessings.
An appealing message – but it’s not the Gospel. Here’s another example:
From where does the idea come that God’s will is for any of us to be happy? He wants us to be holy. Happiness can be a byproduct of holiness, but holiness will not come as a result of seeking happiness.
Apparently, in this commenter’s religion, God doesn’t value Happiness, but does value Holiness. Therefore, He’ll trade us something of lesser value to Him – Happiness – if we will pay Him something of lesser value to us – Holiness. In other words, the reason you are not Happy is because you have not paid the price that God puts on Happiness. Happy people have paid the price; UnHappy people have not.
This position appeals to our sense of pride and control, and we jump up and applaud wildly: Yes! Yes! Preach it!
But it’s not the Gospel.
This is how religion operates, and it is why the early Christians were so frequently ignored, marginalized or martyred. Their message was simple…God is out of the accounting business – permanently. From now on, God is gonna think of you as His own child, not as a servant. …but it thoroughly destroyed the very premises of religion. It really pissed-off the religious people, (and make no mistake – everyone is religious), so they tried to silence and/or kill those foolish believers who were spreading it.
What’s the point of following rules and sacrificing animals and paying tithes and doing deeds of penance if God doesn’t value all my hard work? I pour an awful lot of effort into proving to God that I am good enough and holy enough and righteous enough and committed enough and serious enough, and then these yahoos come along and say that God simply isn’t interested in what I am trying to pay?
This Gospel of the Kingdom, carried by early believers to the uttermost parts of the earth, proclaimed that God had decided to throw open the Divine Party to anyone who wanted to come in and partake of it. He was giving away the riches of His table – for free. All you had to do was take Him at His word. All you had to do was show up. (See, for example, the parables of the Great Banquet, the Prodigal, the Pharisee and the Publican, the Talents.)
For some reason, the religious folks thought this was Bad News, and they’ve spent the last 2000 years trying to convince everyone that God Still Demands Payment! The only reason I can imagine for such foolishness is because most people were (and are) addicted to their own sense of worthiness and control vis-a-vis God. They want a business relationship with God, not a family relationship.
Oh, and they also realize that people who are no longer living in fear can be awfully hard to control.
Me? I’m completely convinced that I have absolutely nothing of value to offer God. Therefore, a business relationship with Him is not even a remote possibility for me. If I have any chance at all of being in a relationship with God, it’s gonna hafta be because He Loves Me.
You know – as if I were His own child or something…