Most people, most of the time, are getting God all wrong. Here’s why: we assume that the whole God/church/religion/Jesus thing is about bettering yourself. We assume God-people must be the people who have refined a few behaviors just enough to squeak into God’s good graces. That means there are other people who haven’t made those moral adjustments, and those people are less spiritually accomplished, and can’t be assured of getting the thumbs up from the man (or woman) upstairs.
“I’m better than you because I found the list. You can be better too, just follow the rules.”
“Other types of religious people? Well, they got the rules slightly wrong. We have the right list, they’re not as good.”
Someone outside the whole God-group thinks: “Well, I’m not really interested. It’s obvious that a bunch of those non-God people are really good people in some important ways, so I can’t agree with writing them off or trying to “save” them from their waywardness. And I can’t get on board with down-grading those people who hold to other lists. Or, I think I’m worth getting a thumbs-up from God already, I don’t need your restrictive rules for that. Or, your rule-book is ancient, the rules can’t possibly still apply today! Or the rules you seem stuck on aren’t fun.”
And so we assume (and usually find it to be true) that if you go to one of those God-group meetings on the weekend, you’ll be taught and inspired to work harder at the list. This surprises no one, because what else could the whole God/church/religion/Jesus thing be all about?
I’m here to say that’s not how it works.
Instead, it’s about finding out that God makes a promise and keeps it. And that promise is given to all of us — of whom no one is any better than the other (not even after finding out about God’s promise).
There’s not a list you need to be devoted to, there is a God who is devoted to you. You are invited to let that devotion of God to you change your entire outlook. Then you’ll find (little by little) that life is just different, and that you have an inspiration & motivation towards goodness that surpasses any list.
In the realm of the God-folks I hang with, we call those last two paragraphs “the gospel,” which means good news.