There are many people in the world today who don’t believe in God. Even though I now believe in God, when I talk with some of these people I find I agree with them. The kind of God they don’t believe in, I don’t believe in either. Writer Brian McLaren described the God he doesn’t believe in:
An uptight God who is about black-and-white easy answers and brittle, rigid logic and law, rather than about profound and many-faceted truth, self-sacrificing love, compassionate justice, and profound relationships.
A conceptual God who is encountered through systems of abstractions, propositions, and terminology rather than through an amazing story, intense poetry, beauty, experience, experiment, and community.
A controlling God who is cold, analytical, and mechanistic rather than a master artist and lover who is passionate about good and evil, justice and injustice, beauty and desecration, hope and cynicism.
An exclusive God who favors insiders and is biased against outsiders rather than a God of scandalous inclusion, amazing mercy, and shocking acceptance, who blesses “insiders” so they can extend the blessing to “outsiders,” thus making everyone an insider.
A tense God who prefers people to become judgmental, arrogant, and close-minded rather than compassionate, humble, and teachable.[i]
Jesus brought something more to the world than simply a new religion. He brought a much greater gift – a real relationship with God. And there is a great difference between Religion and Relationship. The two are as different as night and day.
The more I began to read the Bible for myself and ponder its implications, the more convinced I became (and have become) that God did not send Jesus to start “another religion;” Not at all. God sent Jesus into the world to clarify his purpose in the lives of men and women and to break through the confusing smokescreen of religion and religiosity. Jesus came to make God and his message crystal clear to you and me. When God sent his son, religion was not on his mind, relationship was. Ironically, all too often, religion fails to enhance our understanding of and experience with God. Instead it blurs it. In fact, religious notions and the burdensome rules that accompany them often blind our eyes to the relational intention of God. There is a vast difference between Religion and Relationship.
[i] More Ready Than You Realize by Brian McLaren (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002), pp. 63-64.