Keep A Practical Relationship
My Dad and I had a rewarding relationship as father and son. It was at
times stormy but over the years
I found it a nourishing relation and I am sure he also found that. We
communicated, we laughed, we
discussed. At times discussion went over the line into real arguments.
We always knew it was an argument
when my mother, a Southern lady and to the manner born, used to go to
close the doors and shut the
windows so no outsider might hear and misconstrue.
My mother used to say when my father and I had periods of disagreement the reason was we were both too much alike. I never quite understood this then. I do now. One reason we had a good relationship was we simply enjoyed each other. Looking back we even enjoyed the arguments. I have fond memories of them. But it was a practical working and loving relationship. Neither of us tried to write it into a theology. Then we would have been at each other’s throat constantly. We did not try to change a practical relationship into that intellectual theoretical definition of terms we call theology. I think it clever of us not to do so.
Theology about the relationship would have ruined the relationship between us. Why? First because we would have switched the emphasis from a genuine functioning relationship to describing and writing down ABOUT that relationship. In dissection is death. Autopsy is best done on the dead. Then our working words are not fair descriptive terms that can be expressed exactly or understood in depth easily. A real relationship involves communication beyond what we are able to verbalize. Feelings overwhelm words. Words fail feelings. It is the difference between a sign and a reality. Trying to describe what is largely indescribable is a good way to have a nervous breakdown. It is also a good way to ruin any relationship.
But, oh, the insecure neurotics will scream, “if you don’t write it down, you may get it wrong.” My answer to that is: if you write it down, you are guaranteed to get some things wrong. And then you risk shifting the emphasis from the relationship: to describing about what is that relationship. Soon the good relationship has ceased and all you are doing is arguing about a once was relationship. Arguing about a past relationship is not a present relationship.
It is like this, if you start asking, “Am I happy?” I guarantee that pretty soon you won’t be. You have introduced the snake into the Garden of Eden. Theology can pretty much be the snake in the Garden of Eden. Introduce it and the Garden of Eden either is going or has gone. You are thrown out of living Christianity into arguing about Christianity. Live Christ. Stop “ABOUTING” Him.
But then someone says, “Oh, what about reason?” Let me comment first that people do not live by reason. People live from the heart. The heart works best when purified by grace and reason. But nobody lives by pure reason except those who see money as the reason like Scrooge. Then the selfish heart needs to be redeemed by grace, by love of some sort, so that there is some unselfishness in the heart. Reason is a civilizing factor but reason does not make the birds warble. Nor does reason make the heart dance. When King David danced before the Ark of the Lord as it was brought into the Temple, it was not pure reason motivating Him. He was glorifying and reveling in his grateful affection for God and His comradeship with Him.
Unfortunately I see this as what happened to Western Christianity. It got off the relationship with Christ and onto arguing over how that relationship was. Now this is wrong. What is a must is a practical working relationship with Christ. The relationship will be to some degree a mystery. But when you get off on these creeds and theology about “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” or “does the Holy Ghost proceed from the Father or the Son?” then you have gone from faith to dead religion talking on and only ABOUT<ABOUT>ABOUT. What you need is God. A RELATIONSHIP with God. Not this talking or arguing about God or what God is like. Try the product instead of laughing or arguing over the advertising.
It is my devout prayer that the new Asian and Eastern Christianity (as well as in the West the renewal of Christianity) will not be mere quibbling about GOD but having real interactions with God. What you need is grace from God measured according to your ability to receive it. I do not know what this is for you. But Grace has a thousand expressions. One can be for you and yours. I am convinced that good deeds, good attitudes and prayer can help you to recognize and receive grace. Many are not receiving grace. They have closed themselves to grace because of liberal arguments. In themselves they “frustrate” the grace of God. They nip their souls in the bud.
I believe you can prime the pump of grace with good attitudes and good actions to have grace flow down to you. The more you get, the more you have. But does my belief on this have to be your belief? No. Is that belief necessary for salvation? Good Grief! Of course not. Seek the Kingdom where you are.
Having real interactions with God is not something overly intellectualized and churchy Western Christianity likes you to do. It has been influenced by liberals too much. The liberals say there is no God and they have spread their mud of suspicion to nearly everywhere. So recognizing expressions of grace and knowing Christ are now widely feared. There are study groups about Christ but people are afraid to meet Christ. Studying about Christ is not knowing Christ. The question is not if you know what Christ would do, but, if so, do you do it? Do you live Christ? Not all the time but anytime?
The liberals maintain Jesus, Paul, Mother Teresa, St. Francis, Buddha, Florence Nightingale, Luther and some many others who met God or lived in grace, (some others you may have known like your parents) were crazy. (There is obviously something wrong with our sick Western culture and its iron-deficient liberals when the only argument they can offer about some of the best people in history, though certainly not all were perfect people, is they are or have been crazy. The ones who have turned the world into a lunatic asylum of values are the ones maintaining that the best among the godly and good people of the world are crazy. Why crazy? After all, these good people had experiences of God and grace.)
I am here to preach Jesus Christ and Him Risen (Acts 17:3). Many of you have forgotten His existence. Christ is well. Invisible but knowable He walks the world. God’s unrecognized acts of grace come down every day upon the world much as we see flakes of snow fall on some days in winter. Through faith our eyes are opened to recognize God’s graces, His actions and we are awakened to the true spiritual nature of ourselves.
Open yourselves to grace that you may experience Christ. With God experience is the best teacher. I teach as I have been taught. The person with some experience of Grace enjoys a fully Covenanted Church relationship with God, not just a halfway Covenant Church with an empty creed of meaningless words that may not be empty but are empty to you without some experience of grace. After an experience of grace, theology takes second place, as it should. God’s Grace comes in all shapes and sizes, in a thousand expressions, using diverse means and holy mysteries. God is reaching out to you everyday. Grace is there for you everyday. Open yourself to Him. Do not frustrate grace Accept it. Revel in it. Live it.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.