When Paul penned his letter to the Romans, the Spirit moved him to write, “Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others.” [Romans 14:22 MSG]. That one simple verse runs contrary to what most Christians teach, preach, and believe. But, if our faith is personal, if [as they claim] we have a personal relationship with Jesus, it’s just that – personal. Our relationship with the Divine, is ours – to force how we see that relationship on another seems to forcing people to believe what we believe; what our Institutional Faith teaches us to believe. This scripture contradicts the idea of an Institutional Faith, and Institutional Church, a cookie-cutter approach to having a relationship with the Divine.
In this letter, Paul goes on [14:23] explaining how you live out your faith is more important than forcing your opinion on others. Paul says, “If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then you are wrong.” When we claim to be a follower of the teachings of Jesus, our lives must reflect those teachings. Jesus speaks of loving others, helping those who are marginalized, loving our enemies, holding dearly a life of peace, of grace, of forgiveness. If our lives don’t reflect those core realities, we are showing others a very different Jesus.There in rests the problem of an Institutional Faith, they have a very different Jesus. Because of this, they are living out the faith they believe, it’s just not the faith Jesus teaches.
When faith is institutionalized, it is easy to cut out the things that run counter to the benefit of the institution; loving others can be messy, and the Institutional Church doesn’t like messy. They ignore the radical teachings of love, because they believe it will take away funding from maintaining the Institution. Many in the Institutional Church don’t believe we should love others who are different, or they simply give lip service to the “idea” of love; seeing it as some ethereal concept humanity could never truly understand – they don’t see the need for a radical love, because radical love can’t be controlled. They are unable to love those who wish to do us harm – they are unable to live the teachings of grace, love, forgiveness, and acceptance.
Those holding fast to the Institutional Faith, are actually living out the faith they believe; A faith that flies in the face of radical love, a faith where they envy the lives of others, they boast about what they have, they are proud of their accomplishments, they dishonor others, they are self-seeking while being easily angered, they record the wrongs of others, while ignoring their wrongs. They are unable to rejoice in others. It is not that they have lost their hopes, dreams, kindness, love, grace, forgiveness, it is because they never had them to start with.