Is it really true that the problem with humanity is that it doesn’t believe in God? That what humans need is to be reminded, pointed to, encouraged, evangelized, preached the gospel, told about Jesus, something to instruct their carnal minds to know that there is indeed a bigger, larger, wiser, stronger force up there, somewhere above the clouds, behind the scenes, running the show?
Are humans really mostly, naturally godless, and need to be taught that there is a GOD?
THIS IS A LONG ARTICLE, BUT AN IMPORTANT ONE, SO PLEASE, GRAB A COFFEE AND JOIN ME FOR THE NEXT 10 MINUTES DIVING INTO THIS HUGE, LIFE CHANGING DISCUSSION
Religion often declares that humans have hard hearts that reject the creator. That since the beginning of time, God’s wisdom has been displayed throughout the galaxy “that no man has excuse,” yet “the world” (that’s a popular term in christianity that means: anyone who doesn’t think like us) only pursues their own lusts and rejects the creator, even though in their hearts they know better.
Is that true?
They also taught that mankind immensely pursues knowledge because they’re desperate to find any other law to live by other than God’s law. These types of people are the scientific minds who only study form and elements and not the “thing” behind the elements. They worship the “created thing rather than the creator,” as often quoted.
But is this true?
Do humans really worship the created thing over the creator?
(And…honestly, does anyone really know what that means anyway?)
The premise is that a human loves skin and neurons and atoms (anything we can see with a telescope or magnifying glass), and, if it can’t be measured, it’s not real. So we’ll believe in sound waves, radio waves, electricity and wifi, because, even though they’re invisible, we’ve found a way to measure them. But the real unseen stuff, the God stuff, humans just don’t want to believe it.
The standard take is that “the world” is carnal and only believes in the material world, and if they could just be encouraged and reminded, even using their own scientific equipment to point them toward the truth, perhaps we could convince them that there is a spiritual plane, dimension, world beyond this world, and then, possibly, they would believe in a creator.
Again, is this true?
If we look at human history, I think we’ll see something quite different.
I think we’ll see a world infused with ideas about Gods, Goddesses, and heavenly rulers.
Since the beginning of time, humans have had no shortage of ideas about God.
In fact, most cultures around the globe show such a historical intensity and fervor toward Gods that they went as far as performing human sacrifice to appease them and be on their good side.
Just a quick glance through human history shows us that…
We’d give up our first born to please the Gods.
We’d toss our children to the alligator Gods.
We’d chop heads and watch them roll down temple steps.
We’ve tortured one another, murdered one another, enslaved one another…all over God.
For thousands of years.
The prophets of Baal would cut themselves for God.
We’ve crucified people for God.
We’ve burned countless people alive for God.
We’ve gone on crusades for God; wiping out entire civilizations—South America, North America and many more—for God.
We built a nation on the backs of slaves–for God.
On and on we could go about all the countless ways humans have gone to extreme measures to prove or do something for “the thing” behind the thing. To make God happy; with his rules and standards and temperamental mood.
So look at the world around you.
Is the missing piece, really, that humans, this whole time, have had no idea that there’s more to this place than meets the eye—something behind the something?
Do we really see a world that doesn’t believe in a God or a spiritual component to our reality?
Look at the time of Jesus.
Were they surrounded by a Roman and Greek world that didn’t believe in Gods, and had no spiritual view of life? Certainly not. They had Mithra and Posiedon and Zeus and Aphrodite and on and on.
Look at China—same thing.
The Aztecs, South America, the Islands, Alaska, American Indians, the Egyptians, everywhere you look, every culture has always had nothing short of God ideas. The cultures of our world are infused and have always been infused with stories about creation and blessing and curses and the afterlife and territory and land and who to sleep with and how many and at what time and how many kids to have and what days you can eat and what to eat and on and on and on (that was a fun sentence).
The world, has had no shortage of ideas about that stuff.
Humans have, actually, always, in a way, been obsessed with ideas about God.
Since the beginning, humans have had their heads in the clouds.
So why say all this?
Because, I think the story we tell ourselves about the state of humans matters.
I think it matters to the God’s too.
Here’s what I mean…
I heard a pastor say once that during worship, people should pretend they’re standing in a refrigerator cardboard-box with the top cut out. They’ve got this little perimeter around them, and an opening above their heads. He said the reason for this was that they could “shut out the people around them” and just focus on them and God. Because that’s what worship is (to him): a thing directly between you and God. The person standing to your right and left shouldn’t be involved. They shouldn’t see. You shouldn’t pay attention to them. You should only look up.
Now, imagine…just imagine you’re God, looking down from 100 ft up at all of this.
Is this really what worship is?
Is this really what God desires for humans?
To ignore one another and just focus on him.
(This pastor would later say he didn’t agree with that analogy, which is good, but here’s the point…)
This teaching, this thinking, was in an American Christian Mega-Church, but this thinking has always been around. It’s always been here.
This is the thinking that helps an Abraham be willing to sacrifice his child for God.
This is the thinking that throws babies into the flames.
This is the thinking that burns people at the stake.
The thinking that; what matters in life is primarily the relationship between you and God, and not you and other you-s.
Since the beginning of time, humans have never struggled to believe in, worship and love the Gods. But we have struggled to believe in and love one another.
The gospel, the good news; the story of a world where, for thousands of years, humans had been sacrificing and murdering and cutting and warring with each other over the will of God, and the God finally comes down and talks. He comes down and says…
“When you appear before me, you trample my courts…
Stop bringing me meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. Your new moons, Sabbaths and times of worship, I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.”
Why on earth would the prophet portray God saying something like this?
Doesn’t He love our devotion?
Our first born sacrifices?
Our cardboard boxes?
He goes on to say…
“Your assemblies have become a burden to me…When you spread out your hands in prayer, I cover my eyes.”
Ok, so stop with me for a minute.
Just think…could it be possible that the electric guitars, the Bible studies, the tears, the hours spent in church, the hours spent in study in your bedroom, hour after hour, year after year, has literally gone by unnoticed?
How offensive, right?
God sees your sincere heart, right?
But, is it possible, that everything we call worship, isn’t worship?
That, possibly, everything we say we’re doing for God, maybe…we’re not…doing…for God???
Let’s keep reading.
“Whenever you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your father in Heaven will forgive you.”
There’s a time when God turns us away.
There’s a time, when after all these years of humans having their heads and hands in the clouds, the clouds come down and say “look around you.”
It’s saying maybe the point of praying isn’t about connecting to God, but connecting to your fellowman.
That the voice from above says it doesn’t want to hear one more word, and in fact, hasn’t been listening in a long time.
Because, to God, something else matters more than your personal, private, eyes closed, hands lifted, church attending, voice singing in unison to the latest-greatest worship hit—your fellow brothers and sisters on the planet.
It’s as if, after all the years that humans have spent sacrificing, building pyramids and temples, writing holy books, converting followers, creating lavish worship services for THE THING UP THERE, the thing up there came down and said, “look around you.” Pointing us away from the sky to the thing on the other side of the cardboard box, asking us to open our eyes and behold one another—because, to God, maybe, that’s the whole point, and the message humans have really needed to hear this whole time.
See, we don’t need to be encouraged to have faith in God, we need to be encouraged and reminded to have faith in each other.
What takes greater faith???
Remember the story of the sheep and the goats. A story Jesus told about how humans are divided and would be separated. What was it that separated them? Was it their faith? Their devotion to God?
Let’s look at it.
“Depart from me, for I never knew you. For when I was naked you didn’t cloth me, hungry you didn’t feed me, imprisoned and you didn’t visit me. But Lord, when did we not do those things TO YOU? Truly I tell you, what you do to the least, you do to me.”
Could it be that all our emotion and imagination and intention and desire and pursuit of God, is a coping mechanism for an underlying fear or shame or lack of love, stemming from our disconnect with one another?
Could our love for God be a cover up for our lack of love for one another?
Could worship be a distraction from the real issue?
Could prayer be a denial of our own inability to have conversations we need to have?
Could our worship possibly be trampling God’s courts, a meaningless offering, a worthless assembly, something God closes His eyes to?
But I’ve asked Jesus into my heart.
I’m born again.
I pray everyday.
I read the Bible.
I attend church.
I cry during worship.
I walk with the Holy Spirit, daily.
Could it be possible, that God doesn’t care about any of that?
That somehow, through our cultures and traditions, going way back to the time of sacrificing children, burning each other at the stake, enslaving people, we still, today, have this view of God that sort of says “As long as me and God are cool, I don’t care what anyone else says or thinks. What ultimately matters is that me and God are on the same team. He’s got my back. I’ve got his. It’s me and God against the world.”
John would later say, “If anyone claims to be in Christ…”
Pause there. Just think, what does that actually mean? A person who claims to be in Christ?
Well, a couple basics:
They know the story. The virgin birth, the death, the resurrection, the baptisms, being filled with the Holy Spirit. They agree with it, have prayed it, practice it, walk in it…following the idea that they are in Christ and Christ is in them—that they’re one with God.
But here we are again. Back to the original question: is that really what humans need, to have spiritual ideas, to know God, to walk in Gods will, to be ONE with God? Is that the goal?
Let’s keep reading….
“If anyone claims to be in Christ, but does not love their brother, the truth is not in them and they deceive themselves…”
“For if you don’t love your brother, who you can see, how can you love God who you can’t see?”
It seems John was confronting the same idea I’m presenting here today.
On one level, it doesn’t matter who you pray to.
It doesn’t matter who you sing to.
It doesn’t matter what words you put to what God.
It doesn’t matter what stories you’ve heard.
It doesn’t matter what religion or incite or prophecy or level of spiritual enlightenment you claim to have.
To John, to Jesus, Isaiah, to God, there seems to be a sort of other thing that matters.
Something bigger than festivals.
Something more important that Sabbaths.
Something more important than prayer.
Something better than worship.
Something more real than your ideal connection to God himself…
To God, there’s a way that he closes his eyes to all of it and calls it worthless.
Is God mean?
Is God not understanding?
No, God simply doesn’t value what humans value. Or, another way of saying it is, “God doesn’t play the games we play.”
There’s a way that our hearts turn religion into a game, a distraction, a vice, a cover up, the thing we do to avoid the real thing we should do.
There’s a way that seeking the face of Jesus is my new excuse and reason to not have to face those around me.
Worship is a distraction, prayer is a denial, my love for God a cover up for the love I can’t, or don’t know how to, give to those around me.
There’s a way in which God doesn’t hear our prayers, his spirit not present in our meetings and homes, he turns us away at the worship service.
Turns us away?
And it’s not merely what He’s turning us from, but what He’s turning us toward.
“Therefor, if you are offering your gift at the alter and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the alter. First go and be reconciled to them, then come give your gift.”
See, humans don’t need to be encouraged to believe in God. We need to be encouraged to believe in each other.
We don’t need to be taught how to worship God. We need to learn how to worship and adore one another.
We don’t need to pray more. We need to have those tough and painful and scary and vulnerable conversations with each other.
We don’t need to open our hearts to God. We need to open them to each other.
We don’t need to confess our sins to God. We need to to one another, and then we’ll be healed.
See, religion has had this flipped hasn’t it?
We’ve always taught and preached and imagined that the God particle is the primary aspect of our lives. That as long as God forgives me, it doesn’t matter if a person does. As long as God loves me, it doesn’t matter what humans do. As long as me and God…
And this leads to a particular worldview—a heart view. Maybe this shows us that all along, humans have been pursuing and reaching for something behind the scenes because we’re afraid to confront what’s in front of us.
Could God really be a coping mechanism?
Could religion really be a defense mechanism keeping me from facing the vulnerability and pain and bravery that comes with loving actual humans, who we can see?
Could that, maybe, possibly, be what God has wanted this whole time?
Could humans learning to love one another be the crazy message that heaven has been sending down since the beginning of time?
Could that be the goal, the reality, the point of good religion and spirituality?
The true bond that needs mending??
That since the beginning of time, from the first story, two humans blamed each other and began a process?
In that story you don’t see God mention one word about the relationship between God and man changing, the curse (if you see it that way) can be seen as God describing to the humans the result of their actions. That if they’re going to start hiding, covering up selected regions (withholding), blaming one another, then bad stuff is going to come from it.
You then see this with Cain and Able. Cain asks the big question, “Am I my brothers keeper?”
The answer is YES.
We are our brothers and sisters keepers.
We are family.
We are one.
I’ve been saying this for a while now.
Humans have never struggled with a God view.
We’ve never struggled having faith.
We’ve never struggled doing all we can (even killing each other) over our own ideas of God.
This was healed a bit when we realized God could dwell in man, in Jesus.
But is it really such a crazy concept that God could dwell in a man?
Maybe it’s crazier to imagine He could and does dwell in all men?
See, if we don’t see this, we aim a message and idea at the world that what all men need to do is believe in the one man, Jesus. But maybe the Jesus story was intended to heal the religious mind that was willing to “call down fire from heaven” for those preaching the gospel differently, to not touch the woman washing Jesus’ feet, to burn those at the stake who didn’t believe Mary was a virgin, or, the world was created in a literal seven days.
Maybe the Jesus story was not, simply, one more story being added to the pile of how humans are godless and need to focus more on God. Maybe it was the other way around.
Maybe the Jesus story was about God dwelling in a man, so that those who believe in God could then believe that God dwelled in all men, so that, maybe, finally, people could start believing in each other.
“Creation groans for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed.”
Maybe what the Heaven’s have been waiting for is for humans to put down their worship hands, open their crying eyes, close their bibles, turn away from God and toward each other.
“When we love one another, the Love of God becomes manifested between us.”
John says there’s a way in which “those who claim to be in christ” are actually deceiving themselves. There’s a way in which the mind that places God and Jesus and their personal “spirit-walk” over and above their fellow man, is actually doing the anti-christ thing:) There’s a way in which, the pursuit of God is ungodly.
He says, you can never lose by loving one another.
“Turn away from me, I never knew you…”
There’s a way in which we can lose out, and the common denominator is never how we view and talk and interact with God, it’s how we view and talk and interact with each other.
I cannot tell you how many dozens and dozens of stories I’ve sat through, of devoutly (good hearted) spiritual christian people, who have harbored offense and jealousy and anger and un-forgiveness, for years. Who’ve spent year after year with tattered relationships, unsettled, not at peace, angry, hurt, wounded.
And here’s what’s weird…
Most of these people, turn to religion to cope with it.
Most of these people continue in their zealousness and passion and devotion; to their church, in their personal mental internal walk with God. In a way, the pain in their life pushes them into a place that almost, sort of, allows the problem to stay, because it distracts them, numbs them, makes them feel better.
Because I’m loving God, and God loves me, and that’s all that matters.
And then we have to wonder, does the world really need more of that?
What if every spiritually minded human, tithed their spiritual time and effort. Tithed? To who?
What if people took some of that energy and devotion and passion, all those hours studying and reading and memorizing scripture, all those hours at conferences and worship services, and directed it away from it all, towards one another.
What would we find?
What if we just put down our prayer life for a while, our worship?
What if we just left our gifts at the alter? Setting them down, walking out the building, heading off toward the thing that really mattered.
What if instead of asking God to heal us, we just healed each other?
What if we just said “sorry?”
What if we just confessed to each other?
What if we just let down our guards?
I have a theory…
I think we’d like it.
In fact, I think we’d find such joy and peace and power of love that the desire in us to only be connected to God would in a sense go away, for God, in a way, has become the worlds coping mechanism for all the ways it won’t love itself. The great loving scapegoat we cast our cares on until the day we’re ready to become love ourselves.
“When we love each other, the love of God becomes manifested in our midst.”
Notice it never says, “when you sing songs between you and God, the love (the reality) of God becomes manifested.” Or, “Whenever you stand praying, you enter a sacred space, a realm, where you and God meet and commune and experience a wonderful spiritual high together.” The scripture rarely ever mentions some mystical and interesting encounter occurring between you and God alone. And, when it does happen, the encounter, just like the Moses story, sends the person away from the fire, back toward the midst of the people.
God always points us back to one another.
I think God tells us to leave our gift at the alter, because there’s another gift for us.
I think the real gift is people.
I think the real gift is you and me.
I think we’d come back to the alter and we’d find our gift would be gone, and we’d see that the real gift was inside the relationship between two people, not between just God and a person.
I don’t think the world needs faith in God.
I don’t think the world needs to believe in God.
We have, zealously, for thousands of years.
We have no problem in that arena.
We need something else…
Faith in each other.
Love for each other.
We need to see God in the greatest, the average, the least.
We need to leave our gifts at the alter; all those things we think God wants from us; our imaginations, our devotions, our time, our prayers, our worship, our tears. Yah…He wants us to leave that all behind, because He’s not paying attention anyway, and maybe that’s why spiritually we’re like the woman at the well, needing a water that would so quench us, we’d never be thirsty again.
Religion never satisfies. Because as pretty and well intended as it is, it often leaves out the true gift, the true glory, the true reality of life, which is—the children of God.
You are God.
I am God.
The least are God.
Let’s find God where God really is, and then, maybe, the Love of God would be manifested, and when the love of God is manifested, we’d find the place we’ve all been looking for—heaven, paradise, eden, Zion, the kingdom of God—where? The space between two humans.
There’s no promise of the Love of God manifesting anywhere else.
There’s no church service, building, holy mountain, lakeshore, field, or conference that can produce it. No, we can leave all that behind.
For God is found somewhere else, the space between humans, and when we find it, our souls will delight in the richest of fare, for we’ve found what we’ve been looking for this whole time.
So put down your gift, and go have that conversation you’ve needed to have for years.
Put down your gift, and go find the real gift.
Don’t believe in God, believe in each other.
Of course you have faith in God, now have faith in one another.
Of course you love god, now go love one another, which is, actually, maybe, whole point to the whole story.
Maybe, when we put down our gift (religion, our pursuit of the divine connection), we’ll actually find that God, reality, love, the kingdom, the thing we’ve been looking for has been right in front of us this whole time.