I'm not feeling any kind of clever introduction today. So I'll just go into what I feel like saying. If you haven't read my last post, do that, because I think this might relate somehow. Earlier I wrote about how in relationships between people, we tend to make them all about us, seeking to gain the other person's approval of our existance and putting all the attention on ourselves. Thinking through all that some got me to thinking about something else. I wonder if we treat our relationship with God in much the same way.
There's a couple of different ways that I see this happen with Christians, including myself. One is that we constantly look for what we can get out of our relationship with God, much in the same way that we look to see what we can get out of relationships with one another. And there's a lot to be gotten, I suppose, and that's a very good thing. Obviously we're forgiven of sin, and we receive joy and purpose and everything else that makes life on this sphere worthwhile. If there was no benefit to following Jesus, I can't imagine that I would be doing so. But way, way too often, we leave it at that, and only approach God (and by extension, the church) for what we can reap from it. And so we go to church on Sunday and as we head to Wendy's for lunch, we complain that the music didn't suit us, or the preaching wasn't up to par, or the old people are too cranky, or not enough people greeted us during the "Holy Handshake" time, or whatever. In essence, we ask, "What did I get out of church today?" All the while, what I think is maybe the more important question goes unasked: "What did I give to God today?"
I don't remember many sermons. Maybe because I hear so many these days. But there is one that is a little more vividly implanted in my mind. My old youth minister preached it a couple times while I was in high school, and it was about how we approach worship. The most noticable thing about it was when he shouted at the congregation, "IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU!" That caught a few of the pew-snoozers a little off guard. Probably because he yelled it really loud, but maybe because it's true and we need to be unremittingly reminded of it. We need to stop approaching the church with a "gimme-gimme!" attitude of what we can get out of it. There's got to be more to it than that. Instead, perhaps we should ask: Am I using this time to honor and worship God? Am I connecting with and drawing close to God and with my Christian family? How am I ministering to those around me and encouraging them? What am I doing to let unbelievers know that Jesus loves them?"
There's another way that the attention-grabbing mentality works itself into our spiritual lives. Basically, we like ourselves. And we want other people to like us, so we do all these things so that they'll think we're worth their notice. Not only that, but we understandably want God to like us, so we end up doing all kinds of other things in hopes that he'll do so. And because of this, even the good, righteous things we do are done in an effort of self-exaltation and ego-enhancement. We think, "Hey, I'm a pretty good chap! Look at all these great things I've done! Surely God doesn't have any complaint against me! He's probably likely to name me MVP of the kingdom!"
And as per usual, we don't think the right things in the right ways. It's great to do all these things that God calls us to do. But we think that by doing all these good things, we can get God to like us. But the truth is, you can't do anything to cause him to like you more than he already does. He thinks you're phenomonal. He died for you, even when you hadn't done one good thing in your entire life. Do you really think that doing the right things and saying the right words is what causes God to notice you? To think you're worth loving? He does all that already! So maybe instead of asking, "What can I do to make God happy with me?", you should just ask, "What can I do to make God happy?" Remove the emphasis from yourself.
I apologize for not having written for a while. Things are getting busy, but I will try to write more often. Tomorrow (Sept. 22) is National Elephant Appreciation Day. Go crazy.