When people say they don’t like Christianity, I get it. For most of my life, neither have I. There were many seasons when, if I’m honest with myself, I stuck to it out of fear of what would happen if I didn’t. I admit that now and see how incredibly unhealthy and severely unchristian it is. I also notice signs of this behavior run rampant throughout the Church in general. I can identify it because of my ability to identify with it. Fear has no place in our faith. If at any point our interpretation of Jesus’ words or the Scriptures produces fear, we’re missing the point.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. … There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
– 1 John 4.16/18
My faith was not sustainable with fear; and neither was I. It was turning me into someone constantly desperate for affection and affirmation. My friends and family were being reduced to mere means of my attempting to satiate this subconscious and endless need. Obviously, this damaged many of my relationships. There needed to be a turning point; either a complete about-face away from our religion or at least a pivotal change in direction.
Needless to say, there was a pivotal change. And there continue to be pivotal changes on a regular basis, but I wanted to share one that came up in conversation with a friend battling with depression the other day.
So often, I hear people defining themselves with their mental conditionings. We say things like “I am angry” or “I’m just ADD” or “I’m just in a bad mood” or “I'm just naturally anxious” and so on. We speak as if we have no say in our identity and allow whatever we feel about ourselves to also be what we believe about ourselves. Our feelings objectify us instead of learning to objectify our feelings.
It is commonplace in churches to see people over-identified with their faults. We over-identify ourselves and others with what we believe are faults. This is missing the point. For far too long, my faith made me look crappily at others and look crappily at myself. This resulted in feeling rather crappily, as well. Not to mention, it also bred a pretty crappily view of God. Everything and everyone was looking at an uphill battle to become “good”.
I’ve found this to be profoundly unchristian behavior. Jesus didn’t look at anyone this way, yet it’s exactly how we’ve used him to look at ourselves and others. This is deeply rooted within our history too. At some point, we began identifying the human race more with “original sin” than with our “original goodness”. Because of this, we find a religion that doesn’t bring us any closer to God, but keeps him at a distance.
Before anything we’ve done, God’s already doing. You are made in God's image, so your knowledge of God's identity is the revelation of your identity! You are Love. You are Kind. You are Gentle. You are Forgiving. And so on! These are your truest attributes, personality traits, and characteristics. Behaving otherwise is actually unnatural for us and why we are so exhausted and short all the time. You are also made to live in the wholeness of an abiding conscious relationship with this Great Reality of Presence (the Residence of God within you).
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness … So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
– Genesis 1.26/27