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There I was just
playing on my phone sitting attentively and listening to the Sunday morning sermon when my religion got wrecked. What on earth was he saying?!
I promptly fired off an email to my pastor (yes, while he was preaching) to let him know that we were going to need to talk about this. He had just utterly destroyed three decades of religious beliefs that I had not only held dear, but firmly believed.
The gall. The utter rudeness. I felt wretched and convicted and more than mildly annoyed. I was torn between walking out and running to the altar to weep and gnash my teeth.
So I just sat there in stunned silence, phone forgotten and mouth hanging open. Some of my pretty little theology began to crumble around me and it was jarring.
What on earth do you do when your pastor wrecks your religion?
How did my pastor ruin my religion?
He started out benignly enough, reading Colossians 3:12-16. He talked about the things a Christian should “put on” such as kindness and patience. He was rolling right along, doing a great job of encouraging us, when suddenly he jumped off that course.
“Now, some of you might have heard -or even said- that you don’t have to like people, you just have to love them. WRONG. The Bible does not support that position.”
That would be the moment my head snapped up, my mouth hung open, and I started to get quite uncomfortable. It’s like he had been eavesdropping on some of my recent conversations.
Plus, he was wrong.
We all know that ‘love’ and ‘like’ are two entirely different things. I mean, I have to be kind to people on the outside, obviously, but if I don’t like them on the inside it’s fine, right?
Nowhere in all of my reading through Scripture had I ever found a command to like my neighbor. Just sayin.’
I was going to have to listen carefully and do some studying up (to prove him wrong). I had, after all, attended two different Christian colleges and had theological credentials. Surely I could help him unravel this mess.
I sat up straight in my seat and began to furiously scribble notes.
Then he started quoting Scripture and digging into original languages. As I made my notes, the truth was beginning to unfold clearly in front of me. Maybe he knew what he was talking about after all. Perhaps I had been
wrong not quite right.
After all, the Bible was disagreeing with me, so it was obviously time for me to change.
It turns out that agape means a lot more than “God’s type of love.” It is, absolutely, referring to the love God has for us.
However, the word was taken from the verb agapao and also means to have a preference for, regard the welfare of, affection, and goodwill in addition to passionate, longing, unconditional love.
Basically, that means “like” as well as “love.” We are called to have a preference for people, to care about their welfare, and to have goodwill towards them.
I actually have to ‘like’ people.
And all these years, I thought it was enough to be kind and patient, to meet their needs, and to not be rude.
So here I am, still reeling from the shock of having a multi-decade foundation of wrong beliefs pulled out from under me and wrestling with the questions: What do you do when the Bible wrecks your religion? How do I start liking people so that I can truly obey my God and be His disciple more fully?
I’ll be honest and tell you that I’m still working it out. I can share with utter transparency that I’m not always a people person, and in many instances, I am the exact opposite of one.
I like my husband (nearly always). I like our children (usually). I like my best friend (most of the time).
But that person who gets on my nerves? I just tend to nod and smile when I can’t avoid a social interaction with them, but that’s about it. After all, love is patient…not BFFs.
I’m not rude, they probably don’t even know that I don’t prefer to be around them, and if they had a need I’d gladly meet it if I were able. Isn’t that showing God’s love? Isn’t that enough?
Apparently not. There goes my religion.
But religion isn’t good for me, anyhow.
Religion is just rote action. I want a relationship with Jesus and I want the world to see His love through me in a way that makes them long to know Him, too. So this really is a great thing.
This death of a religious belief is creating room in my life for a Truth that will deepen the relationship I have with my Beloved.
I have a huge passion for missions and for practical outreach. I find it fulfilling to meet needs and I am always there to hug a hurting soul. I intercede for people daily.
I will gladly have you over for dinner or to have a heart to heart talk over a latte. But I also value my alone time and quiet.
And sometimes I elevate my need for personal space over my call to love people. God is showing me that I’ve turned my introversion into an idol. (hint: that’s not good)
This revelation has been hard for me. I’ve actually spent some good time on my face, in tears, repenting. The Holy Spirit has grieved my heart for this wrong belief system I’ve held so tightly to.
There is nothing I long for more than to be the Bride He is longing for. When I read the Bible, I desire to live up to what God says in it because if we love Him, we’ll obey Him.
The world will know we are His disciples by our love for one another.
God, forgive me. I’m sorry I didn’t like the people You love.
Now I’m building on Truth.
Now that I know, it’s time to rebuild on a foundation of Truth. I’m sure this is going to be harder than it ought for me because I’m stubborn and prideful and it’s going to take time to make this new understanding penetrate decades of personality and character and habits.
But oh, He is so faithful to hear our prayers! I’ve been praying about it, deeply and intentionally, since I sat in shock when
my pastor the Holy Spirit used the Bible to wreck my religion.
I’ve cried out with tears of repentance and thanksgiving for the Light the Bible sheds into the dark recesses of my heart.
Every day this week, I’ve found myself seeking out a connection with people and truly enjoying it. Talk about an answer to prayer! God’s love is more alive to me than ever before.
Let the Bible wreck your religion.
Friends, we serve the God who raises the dead. My foolishness does not scare Him away; rather, my repentance makes Him bend close to tenderly renew me. It’s utterly amazing.
The move of God in your life is the most devastatingly beautiful, yet slaying thing imaginable.
I challenge you to ask God to wreck your religion. Read the Bible and let Truth shine brighter than any beliefs you have held onto.
After all, the Bible declares that everything that can be shaken will be.
When the Bible wrecks your religion, there is room for eternal Truth to flourish.
When the Bible wrecks your religion, life seems upside down but it’s finally right side up.
When the Bible wrecks your religion, you are suddenly free to stop striving and abandon yourself to grace.
Doesn’t that sound amazing?