It’s an important idea to me, that – as G. K. Chesterton has said – our Christianity should look “less like a theory and more like a love affair.” Sometimes I think we’re in danger of making our faith about intellectual belief of the facts of who Jesus was/is. The danger, at least for me, is that a solely intellectualized faith can lose its heart, and over and over we are told in scripture that the heart is, well… the heart of the matter. Belief in the facts is an important part of faith for sure - believing that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for our sins and rose from the grave, etc - but there is that unforgettable scripture that reminds us of the limits of mere belief where we are told that “even the demons believe, and tremble.” So clearly, a faith that pleases God is more than just believing the facts. So what is the more that God is looking for?
I believe Jesus came to give us more than just better information about who God is, I believe he came to give us a relationship with God. At its most basic level, the story of Christianity is a love story between God and man. He even refers to us as his bride, and this helps me understand what God desires. I’m reminded of my own marriage to Taya and what it has taught me about the difference between law and love.
I have a story:
Taya is from the Bellingham, WA and she flies home to be with her family at least once a year. She’s also very clean and orderly, and I – as you might imagine – am… well… not. So in our first year of marriage, when she was flying back home from a week with her family, it occurred to me that I should probably clean up the house that I had managed to thoroughly destroy within hours of her departure. But then I had what seemed like a brilliant thought at the time: “hey, if I wait until she gets home, she can help me clean the house. She seems to like cleaning the house anyways…” It sounded very reasonable in my mind, but… obviously it wasn’t such a good thought. I would soon learn that Taya didn’t think it was a good idea either.
You can imagine that after a period of being apart from each other, I might have hoped for a happy, loving reunion. But that was not to be. And thus, I learned my lesson. If I wanted Taya to be happy, the house had to be clean when she got home. And so I learned what I had to do to fulfill the letter of the law of Taya in that regard, and from then on, whenever she would return home from a trip, I would follow the letter of that law and consequently I’d do the least I had to do to fulfill my obligations.
I would sweep things under the couch. I would rearrange the dirty dishes in a way that made it look like there were less than there actually were… you get the idea. It was all very half-hearted. Of course Taya knew it, but was very gracious, and this is how it went for the next few years.
And then about 4 years into our marriage, she was coming home again, and – again – I did the least that I had to do to get the job done. But then something strange happened, and I had a new thought, unlike any I’d ever had before: “Man, Taya would be really surprised if I oiled our hard wood floors…” So, after finding the oil and the mop, I polished those floors to perfection. And then I had another thought: “you know, Taya would feel really loved if I were to vacuum the upstairs”. And so I found the vacuum cleaner, figured out how to turn it on, and proceeded to not only vacuum the upstairs but dust and wash the bedding and clean the mirrors and on and on through the rest of the little green farm house we rented, driven by some new found desire to please her.
When I finished in a sweat, I went to clean up in the bathroom, and what you need to understand and appreciate here is that we lived on a farm with well water that smelled sulfuric and left an orange residue everywhere it sat. Taya had been away for a couple of weeks, so you can imagine what our toilet bowl looked like. Or maybe you can’t imagine. Perhaps you shouldn’t…
To put it mildly, the toilet bowl was stained with a muddy orange silt that had sat and become one with the porcelain over that last couple of weeks, which sparked my last, best, and most radical thought of that day:
“Taya would be amazed if she were to come home to a spotless toilet bowl!”
And so I got down on my knees and scrubbed that thing while angel choirs descended from heaven and extolled the virtues of the cleanliness of our toilet bowl.
Taya was indeed amazed. Almost as much as I was. Afterwards I was wondering about what the heck came over me, and I realized that all along I had been doing the least that was required of me out of obligation to the law of Taya, but this time it was different – I had done it out of love. And that is the distinction.
This provided me with a real life picture of the difference between dead religion (based on believing facts about God) and a vibrant relationship with Christ, where faith can either be a burdensome, obligatory, passionless ideology or a response to love that spontaneously erupts and spills out of our lives like an artesian well that cannot be contained.
I know which one I prefer, how about you?
It’s gotta be
More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out, come take a look at me now
It’s like I’m falling in love…
Next blog coming soon: The meaning behind verse 1 of “More Like Falling In Love.”