I have to admit.
Sometimes I think God is in an abusive relationship with me.
I get it. “Abuse” is a word loaded with paper trails, court appeals, and restraining orders. It does have baggage. But when taken at face value, to abuse simply means to misuse, or use improperly.
In that vein of thought, here are three ways in which you and I can ab-use our relationship with God.
NEXT STEPS: Young Adult Ministry Training
Hopefully you don’t resonate.
1) Talk to him only when you need something.
Dr.Allan Walshe, my professor from my youth and young adult class, laid this gem on us:
“Requests are a part of prayer, but they are not the heart of prayer.”
He further explained that the heart of prayer is a relationship – a sincere, singular commitment to a personal God who knows you and longs to be known.
This was paradigm-shifting because prayer, for the most part, had been nothing but a calling bell for my Cosmic Butler. It’s usually my 911 line for a bruise all the way to a breakup. Yes, I do season my communication with the occasional pre-meal grace. Yes, I do thank him for that miraculous A. But prayer is still optional communication.
I need it when I need God.
Yes. God does want us to come to Him with our requests and desires. As a matter of fact, he’d rather have us come to Him than anywhere else. But we diminish the function of prayer when we relegate it to a mere transaction. Check out what Aunty White had to say about prayer:
“Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.” (EW, SC, 93).
God doesn’t want to be used. He longs to be loved. I’ll do well in trying to remind myself of that daily. Today, did I talk to him when there was nothing for me to ask him? Did I take some time today to tell him how great He is just because? Did I talk to him as I do to a close friend?
I wonder how our marriages and relationships would fair if we only talked to our partners only when we need something from them.
2) Enjoy the privileges of the commitment while ignoring the responsibilities of it.
When I join a company, I am made privy to two things: My membership privileges and the company contract. I can enjoy these privileges as long as I’m a member of the company, but the moment my choices conflict with the company contract, I may potentially lose my privileges as well as my membership.
Enjoying the privileges of my company while ignoring its responsibilities is a sure way to get fired. Yet when it comes to my company and commitment to God, the same rules remarkably do not seem to apply.
The privileges of Christianity are many. We are called to enjoy gifts like grace, peace, community, purpose, strength, joy and eternal life among others. But while we do that, we are concurrently called to uphold the responsibilities of Christianity such as discipleship, love, sacrifice, service, and join in with the missio dei of seeking and saving the lost.
Unfortunately many of us want to enjoy the crown without bearing the cross. We let Jesus do all the dirty work while we get to enjoy his spoils. The German theologian and activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer, referring to this as “cheap grace”, galvanized his sentiments with the following definition found in his epoch-making book, the cost of discipleship:
“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Have I enjoyed the privileges of salvation while ignoring the responsibility to my Savior? How have I done that done that today?
Salvation is free but not cheap. The price tag is still high. What then should be our response to the One who paid it all?
3) Ask him to modify your behavior without transforming your life.
The overarching meta-narrative of scripture begins with man created in the image of God and ends with the complete restoration of that image in man where the old order of things has been replaced and transformed into a new one.
The apostle Paul mentions this new order in his letter to the Corinthians:
“if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things passed away, behold, new things have come.”
In order to effectuate this, he exhorts the church in Rome not to conform to the patterns of this world, but instead be transformed by the renewing of their minds.
Scripture is replete with references which convey the necessity of a total soul transformation. God seems to be asking more of his people because he wants to do more. And yet I still find myself asking him to change certain parts of my life not realizing that God is more interested in transforming all of it.
But is it wrong to ask God to give me more patience? Is it wrong to consult him for my weaknesses? I think not. However, I think I’m missing the point when behavior modification takes precedence over a desire for life transformation.
The ultimate end of a relationship with God is God Himself. He wants us to see him face to face and to enjoy Him in an unadulterated atmosphere of holiness. This requires us to be changed and transformed into His likeness in order for us to withstand His glory in eternity.
Then what about our behaviors? When God transforms the life, behaviors are more than modified – they are repurposed.
These are three of the many ways I think I have abused my relationship with God. What about you? Have you found yourself in a similar or different situation? If you care to share, leave a comment below![/box_holder]