Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Religion of the "Shoulds"

I don't know about you, but whenever I give Christians advice on something, I often get the "I know I really should do that" response. Now, of course, some people mean they're going to do it, but most people just feel like it's something ideal, but it conflicts with what they know they're going to do.

I should pray more. I should read the Bible more. I should go to church more often. I should be calmer with my kids. I should share the gospel of life more. I should do this. I should do that. I should wear a coat with my scarf and hat (I was feeling Dr. Seussish with that one).

But the problem of the "religion of the shoulds" is that it displays a far more important problem in our lives than the mere external actions that we are not producing. It displays the lack of love and desire we have for God and others. You see, if I love God, I'm going to desire to believe and do all that is pleasing to Him. If I love others, I'm going to desire to be truthful with them about God and do what is good to them. And if I love God and others more than myself, that desire is going to come to fruition in my activities. In other words, the "religion of the should" is a religion of law, but Christianity, true Christianity, is the "religion of the wants," and therefore, it is the religion of faith, hope, and love.

I do whatever I most want to do in that moment. If I desire to please myself more than to love God and others then my actions will simply manifest themselves accordingly. If I desire to please and love God and others more than myself then what I do will be in accordance with that. The religion of the wants is always manifest in our actions, whereas the religion of the shoulds is always just what we know we should do if we weren't so entrapped in our love for self above God and others.

If we love God and His people, we want to pray more, read the Bible more, go to church more often, conduct ourselves with our families better, share the gospel more, and we do. Our highest desire always takes flight if it is within our power to perform it. And it doesn't even seem like a chore at that point, because we are not doing something we don't really want to do, but something we really enjoy.

So the problem is a heart problem in that we desire the most the things that we do. It is a mind problem in the way that we think about what are the best persons and things most worthy of adoration in our lives. This doesn't mean you should never do the "shoulds," even when you don't feel like it; but only that the "shoulds" ought to work in faith toward love, so that they become "wants." And those "shoulds" ought to be always a flow of thought and action that stems from a relationship with God through Christ, without which the heart will remain stone toward God and others when compared to its love for self. Law cannot save us. Law only increases sin because we run even further from oppression and law is oppressive when we do not do those good things out of our desire and love for God. Only a vital relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, then, can change our desires from loving the wayward self to loving God and others over ourselves.Without that relationship, we are doomed to always desire whatever fleeting and destructive pleasure arises in the moment.

So let us do away with the religion of the shoulds altogether, and strive toward love of God through Christ so that it may manifest itself in a religion of the wants and does.

And now I ask you, lady, not as writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we  love  one another. And this is  love , that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. (2 John 5-6)

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