Living the Life

I was recently talking to a friend about how a mutual friend’s son had lost his faith.  In fact, he has become quite the foe of Christianity, calling Jesus an “anti-hero”.  My friend was wondering how this could have happened, considering the family in question was quite religious.  Here, I believe, lies the problem.

I did not coin the phrase “rules without relationship equal rebellion.”  I do believe it, rather strongly, based on what I have seen in my long life.  The family in question was indeed religious, however there is a huge difference in religion and faith.  Faith is based on a relationship with God.  Faith seeks to know God personally.  Faith seeks to understand as much of God’s character as humans can know.  Faith prays, trusts, seeks to please God and loves God.  Faith also spills over into human relationships.  Faith prays for people, faith loves people, faith seeks the best for people, and faith desires good relationships.  Religion, on the other hand, is about rules, what to do and what not to do.  It has been said that the more empty a relationship, the more people will try to do and refrain from doing things in an attempt to keep the empty feeling at bay.  Its kind of a magical thing in the case of empty faith.  The person engages in trying to please God through recipes, rules and bargaining.  The person doesn’t know God in any kind of deep way, doesn’t pray, doesn’t trust God and doesn’t ask God for guidance.  Often the empty spiritual life spills over into empty relationships with other people as well.

In the case of the friend whose son was being discussed, I saw a mother who really overcontrolled her kids.  Her relationship with them wasn’t based on their needs so much as it was based on her own needs to fill her empty spiritual life with rules, and her need to control kids with whom there was no relationship of trust or real concern.  In the end, mom left the family and the kids were totally and completely let down.  They desired and tried to maintain a relationship with her with various levels of success and disappointment.  In the end, the safer way to vent their anger, disappointment and frustration was to rebel against Mom’s religion and mom’s God.

Moral of this story, make relationship your #1 aim.  Work for the best for the people in your life, and work to know God–really know Him, in a give and take life of prayer.  Really love your kids, really listen to them and share with them your faith journey with God.  Where rules are concerned, choose your battles carefully.  Even so, kids are more likely to accept rules if their relationship with you is warm, loving, open and trusting.

I think our friend’s son will only come to trust and love God if he gets into a warm, loving, open and trusting relationship with someone else who is also a lover of God.  We can surely hope so.

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