This post is a bit of a new direction for me, but I felt it was something I should write.
At the risk of putting off some readers, I have to say I am a practising Christian.
Wow, writing that felt like I was confessing to some heinous crime.
When I say I am a ‘practising’ Christian, I know that can be taken in a number of ways. I am practising in the sense that I go to Church most weeks, I pray, I read the Bible, I have faith in a living God and His Son who bought our salvation by His death. On the other hand, I am not a practising Christian, in the sense that I know certain truths and values to be priorities for Christians and I constantly fall short of this. I have yet to fit the Christian part of me comfortably into the external projection of myself, so that when I am with people who do not believe in God, I hide my own faith until directly confronted with a question, but when with other Christians, I am uncomfortably aware of my lack of continuity and commitment. I guess in a third sense, I am practising in an endeavour to improve!
I would also like to make a distinction at this point between myself and some who do claim, rather loudly, to be Christians and to represent Christianity. There are those who take passages from the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, and (I believe) distort them to justify acts of violence, discrimination and hate. I believe that the God I am coming to know more and more has a deep love of people, and is saddened by these acts. I don’t want to go into particular details here, each issue is a discussion in itself, but the fact is that Christianity is based on God loving the world (not just one sector of society) so much that He sent His only Son to die for it. That kind of love just does not match up with the kind of things some people are saying and doing in the name of God or Christ.
Jesus made it very clear that God is about love. His teachings in the Gospel emphasise that people need to show love for each other in every aspect of their lives and use this as a base for their actions – Matthew 22:37 – 40 reads “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” On the basis of this, we are told not to judge others until we have judged ourselves. Specifically: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged…Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matt 7:1 – 3). This passage is often overlooked by those who are quick to condemn (either verbally or more violently) others for things they do, and I know that I am also guilty of this.
The good news is, it’s not just one way. We have to show love for God and for each other, but we get it back from God in bucketloads. I often find myself trying to sort things that go wrong out on my own, instead of praying about it or asking for help. When I do turn back to God, I feel His love almost as a physical sensation. It’s a wonderful feeling that cannot be described. There are hard times, times when I need to learn a lesson, but I am reminded constantly that God is not abandoning me during those times, any more than I abandon my son when I stop him having a biscuit or sticking his fingers into an electric socket. When I don’t feel God with me, it’s because I am shutting Him out and trying to go it alone. God wants to be allowed to love me, I just have to let Him.
7 thoughts on “On God, #1”
Excellent post, and a brave one at that. Really enjoyed reading that…please keep it coming
Interesting read. In what form do you receive ‘things’ from god?
Thanks for reading! To be honest, all sorts of ways. There’s the more mystical sense of a ‘word’ from God – a thought or a picture in your head which has meaning for a particular circumstance or situation. That’s the kooky one out of the way; it’s the hardest one to accept if you don’t believe and it’s the one I generally feel most reluctant to talk about for that reason.
In a more tangible way, we’ve had actual things too. I have experience physical healing following prayer. I know you can call this a coincidence, maybe I would have been healed anyway, but I have to ask if I would have been healed if I hadn’t had prayer? I’ll never know. And there are times I haven’t been healed despite people praying their socks off, but my faith tells me I have to believe that there is a reason which may become clear later. We’ve had miracles too – after we started going to church I was reconciled with my parents which had been a hopeless situation for 6 years. Silly things like finding a £10 note in a pocket when we needed it. Things happening in our lives – jobs coming up when we needed them. Encouragement and prayer received spontaneously from people when we needed it most. Common theme – He meets my needs, even needs I haven’t yet realised I had.
And, of course, things that we take for granted. Andrew and Daniel and baby #2 are definitely gifts from God that enrich my life. Hope this answers you?
But all those things happen to non believers too, I have found cash when it’s been needed, have a child, have got a job when needed.
Great blog, they are meant to make people think and discuss… Well done.
Just a thought – God does love non-believers too! Those things are blessings, my faith comes in when I stop and think about where those blessings come from.
But thanks for reading and discussing, you’ve been a great encouragement.
See this is where i get a bit lost.
If ‘he’ loves non believers and gives these gifts to everybody… why bother believing or going to church etc?
I would guess that people who go to church get no further in life than people who don’t, i’d imagine there are as many sad/happy people who go to church compared to those who don’t.
I went to church for 12 years non stop every week, prayed like everybody else, yet my life only improved after i stopped going… do i put this better life down to not going to church? well of course not…
it was simply just ‘life’!
OK, couple of points in that one. Shout at me if I don’t answer properly…
Firstly, it’s a relationship, not just Santa handing out goods. I think the best way of thinking about it is that of a Father-Son relationship. You will never stop loving William or wanting to do good things for him, even if something unbearably sad happens like him not wanting to be in contact for a while. But how much richer your relationship is with him when he wants to be with his daddy, when he says thank you for the things you give him. And also, you get a different emotion giving him things he’s asked for to giving him surprises. Both are satisfying, in different ways. If we can feel like that, when we are also human and lose our tempers and get impatient with our children, how much more intense will those feelings be for a perfect God? So no, you don’t HAVE to believe or go to church to receive blessings from God, but you miss out on that relationship which is so fulfilling when you let it be. And I will be honest, I’ve had so many more blessings and answers to prayer since going to church again. You are very lucky in receiving the things you mentioned, how much more would you have got if you prayed to a generous and loving God that you believe in?
Secondly, about people going to church getting further in life. There are two points here, first is it’s not enough to go to church and go through the motions. There are sadly many non-believers who go to church because it’s what they should do or have always done. They might not even know they’re non-believers, but they are not in the special relationship that comes from actually stopping and saying ‘Yes, I believe in God and in His Son who died for our sins, and I want to worship that God and love Him back’. These people are no different from non-believers who do not go to church, if anything they are worse off because they may feel unfulfilled spiritually, knowing there is something wrong but believing they are doing everything right to fix it. I’ll come back to that in a minute. The other side to ‘getting further in life’ is that it very much depends on what your definition of getting further in life is. I can think of a few examples of people I know at church, off the top of my head, who have taken pay cuts or ‘demotions’ or left highly successful careers to do a job they felt God wanted them to do, and they would never look back. They feel fulfilled and happy, and despite pay cuts, always have enough to meet their needs. That sounds pretty good to me! Better than , for example, being in a highly-paid job in accountancy that leaves you feeling drained and unsatisfied. Or enjoying your job but feeling there is something ‘more’ for you out there.
Yes, there are sad people in church. Your problems do not stop because you believe in God. You still live in the world and have to deal with the consequences of being human which do not end until death. There are times of depression, anger, tragedy, financial difficulties, illness etc. There are two differences though. You do not know how much worse these things could have been without prayer from yourself and your friends. When I was sick, it felt like my prayers for healing were not being answered, but how much worse could things have been? I could have lost the baby, which does not bear thinking about. And on the other hand, when these things happen God is waiting there, as a loving Father, to hold you and comfort you and give you refuge. It is up to us to respond to that. I would rather be a depressed person taking advantage of the love and companionship i find in God and at church than go it alone when trouble strikes. The problem is, I am human, and I do not always take advantage of that help!
This is what I said earlier I was coming back to. I often drift away, and do go through the motions. I notice life becoming greyer, things going wrong, a sense of sadness and drifting, and am not quite sure how to fix it. It is only when I realise how much I have shut God out again and turn back to Him that I regain that peace I first had. I have also been in the position of going to church every week – I went to a Catholic church until I was 15. It didn’t work for me because it was routine. Life seemed better after I stopped going because that time wasn’t wasted. Now I spend even more time in church, praying, reading the Bible, but it isn’t wasted time any more. It is cementing my relationship with God.
Sorry, this answer’s been another blog post in itself, but your comment brought a lot of stuff up in just a couple of sentences!