My last few posts on non-religious Christianity (starting here) provoked a couple of people to question, "How do you get from shame-based Christianity to living the abundant life Jesus talked about?" Knowing I was going to blog about it, Tony (my husband) and I had a lengthy early morning conversation on the subject today.
"How would you answer these people?" I asked him. "How would you describe your journey from living under the law to living a non-religious Christianity?"
Tony paused for a moment. "There are two things that come to mind," he said. "But neither of them would you want to write about!"
I guessed one of them instantly. In our early student days, one of our mentors, a guy named George Tarleton, had a famous talk that started, "The Bible is not the Word of God!" This had the desired effect of shocking his audience into listening to him, but he went on to describe how Jesus is the Word of God and we find life in a relationship with him rather than in keeping a set of laws.
The outcome was that I determined that I wasn't going to live life by a set of laws any longer, but I would wait until Jesus prompted me to do something. I was brought up in the era where "quiet times" were emphasized. "No Bible, no breakfast!" I felt guilty if I missed a quiet time. There was an unspoken fear that if I didn't spend an hour with God first thing in the morning, then my day would somehow be unblessed and unproductive, or worse still, I would be open to enemy attack. I decided I would experiment. I would no longer have a quiet time by rote, but rather I would wait until I felt like it.
A year later, I still hadn't had a quiet time! But I'd spent lots of time talking with Jesus. At that point I decided I was going to spend regular time with him anyway whether I felt like it or not, and I found I was really hungry for the Word (the Bible) in a way that I hadn't known previously. And something in me had been broken. I wasn't spending time with the Lord out of fear or guilt, because I ought to, but because I wanted to.
Please hear me on this. I'm not suggesting that people quit their regular time with the Lord. It's good to develop habits that cultivate intimacy with him. I would still train a new disciple in the importance of prayer and reading the Word. It's the motivation that makes the difference. Think of a marriage. How would our relationship be if Tony and I only spent time together because we knew that was what married people ought to do. No, we spend time together because we love each other's company. There's no person in the world I would rather spend time with than Tony. It's not a duty to share a meal with him. I don't spend time with him out of shame or guilt, but out of love.
It's similar with our relationship with the Lord.
If legalism is a problem for you, ask the Lord, and he will show you the best way for you, as an individual, to be set free. More on this in the next post.
What have other people found that freed them from shame- and guilt-based religion?