For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.~Romans 5:19 New International Version
I used to think that it didn’t matter if two people shared the same values in terms of religion. I thought that if they both had a very general belief in God or some force that was in charge of the universe that things would always work out the way they needed to work out. As it turns out, I was wrong. It is very important that you know these things about the people you let into your life. Are they all or nothing? Are they balanced? Or is it really that they aren’t fully committed to anything? They may have convinced themselves that their ability to live in both worlds is “balance” but this is usually an indicator that the person hasn’t made up their mind whether they want to follow their God or just play a follower on television.
I tend to have an all or nothing personality. Though I am working very hard to achieve spiritual balance, some days I just can’t help but be too heavily entrenched in what I believe to allow love to be present. Trying to live in two worlds isn’t right, but pushing too hard one way isn’t necessarily right, either. This is why when I made the decision to leave my husband, I stopped going to church. People at church didn’t necessarily agree with my decision to leave him, but they didn’t seem to mind that I left the church. I found that perplexing, but I didn’t feel that I should present myself as a distraction to what they were trying to do in church by showing up separate from him and giving anyone a source for gossip. It seemed easier and more respectable to simply bow out instead of showing up with the anger and hatred I was carrying in my heart. I was surprised, however; at the lack of concern shown by the congregation for me as a person. But then, this isn’t the first time I’ve been disappointed by a church and I’m sure it won’t be the last. As Joyce Meyer says, “You won’t find a perfect church and if you do, after you get there it won’t be perfect anymore.”
Whether the reason for the church’s distance from me lies in my husband’s continued presence and involvement there or if they simply didn’t care enough to check on a member of their “flock” will remain a mystery. But it proves one thing to me. Religion is a very individual thing. Although the acceptable way seems to be to present yourself as a religious, Christ-following, loving individual is to show up at church every week and paint a smile on your face while you shake hands with people you might not think about again until you see them in the pews the next week, God knows what’s in your heart. It doesn’t really matter what side of yourself you show the world. If you’re all or nothing or if you’re a straddler, it really won’t matter at all when you’re facing judgment. God knows who has been listening to Him and following and leading others in ways that aren’t self-serving, self-motivated or otherwise lacking in depth. For a church to step away from someone who has made a decision that they felt was wrong without asking the person what role God played in their making that decision is simply wrong and of course, very human behavior.
How we relate to each other and how we relate to our Higher Power in particular. It occurs to me that our level of commitment to our religious practices (including the depth of those beliefs and how we treat others whose beliefs differ) is directly related to our capacity to commit to the relationships in our lives. For example, if you are the type of person who has an all or nothing mentality, your way might be to throw yourself into what you believe and truly walk the walk. If you are more of a surface dweller, you might find that your religious practices are limited to simply doing what you feel is required in order to be counted among those who practice a religion. Surely, you may find this statement as well as the term “surface dweller” offensive, however; in my opinion, there is no better way to describe the behavior. I’m not throwing stones, I’m simply stating my beliefs about the behavior.
Depending upon the types of relationships you have in your life, you may also treat the people around you in much the same manner as you treat your Higher Power. If it’s okay to spend your days with one foot in the church and one foot in the bar, then it might well be okay to spend some of your time acting like the devoted husband, wife, father, mother, etc. and some of your time acting like you’re single and childless. Or worse, you may act like this all of the time. Along with my earlier example of how my church reacted to my personal problems, this begs the question for me why put one bit of your faith in any person? I mean, we’re really supposed to put our faith in God and not in man, so it’s obvious that when we put any degree of faith in a human being we are destined to be disappointed. But what I mean is, how can you be expected to put your faith in someone as a life partner or friend or parent or anything else if you know that they don’t place the same value on you as you place on them? Only God places more value on us than we could ever place on ourselves and in doing so, becomes the only justifiable recipient of our love and faith. Other than our children, who we can love as God loves us, there is no person who will not disappoint us.
My aim here is not to turn people off of going to church but to try and understand how an institution that is supposed to provide family and community for its members could be so judgmental and dismissive. I realize that not all churches are like this, but there are these things called human beings at every church. This in and of itself creates the potential for disaster. This is especially true if any number of the members of the congregation are surface dwellers. If you aren’t going to care about the people in your church and truly support them and try to love and understand them, please, stay home and practice whatever kind of religion it is that you call that. Don’t put a pretty hat on it and take it to church!