Religion. Church. God.
How frequently I see these three words used interchangeably. To prove – or disprove – the love of God, the humanity of God, the very being of God.
Vows. Marriage. Love.
How INfrequently I see these three words used interchangeably. How they are used in marriage counselling. When things have gone wrong. When relationship is breaking down. When duty, obligation and free-will are under the microscope: who is being fair and who is being unfair. Who is being “loving” and who is not.
Religion is not relationship. Vows are not relationship. They are both “constitutions”. A consensus – a way – of how things “will be” – a list of expectations – of “musts and must nots”. Religion and Vows are there as a “law” – a “rule” – to be kept and followed – and to determine the outcome in cases of dispute. Religion and vows are there to establish, restore – or smash – “relationship”.
Is that “God” … is that “Love+” … is that the “endgame” we all secretly desire – to live life by “rules” others have made for my unique, precious and intensely personal loving relationships – my very life?
Church is an institution. Marriage is an institution. Pillars of society and culture that we have evolved, nurtured and which are there to protect the good of all. For the good of both churched and unchurched, married and unmarried. At best merely an example, a concept, an illustration of how things could be, should be, ought to be (or not). And at worst – control, exclusion and compromise. So why (given a choice) would any of us choose to live within an “institution” and “constitution”? Why would we choose to compromise so much of who we are – for so little of what we could be? Is that the “endgame” we really desire? Or do we desire and demand much more? That “Relationship+” … that freedom to love as only we know how … the safety to love as only we can with our one true beloved … that choice and freedom we desire … the choice and freedom that is the “endgame” we all seek …
So what about “God and Love”?
Let’s look at Love first. Love hurts. The heartache of unrequited love. The passion and fire of lust. The inconsistent feelings that we label love – that ebb and flow – that come and go. We talk of a love lost … of being broken-hearted … of the desolation of loss. When we have been rejected … when we are wistful … how we can remain ever optimistic. How true love is fulfilling … invigorating … the reason for living. How we thrive on “Relationship+” … when we create life together … live life together … build our futures together.
And then we may discover Unconditional Love for ourselves. “Love+” that does not need, fear, or restrain. “Love+” that allows, frees, liberates. “Love+” that desires, deepens, is for ever (and ever). That grows not because of where you are, what you are or what you have – but grows because of how you are, who you are, and what you hold as sacred. “Love+” that lives even beyond death.
Because when “Love+” is used as a debating pawn – then we know someone is playing games. When “Love+” is slated, slighted and slandered then we know someone has been hurt terribly. When “Love+” is not enough … then “Love+” has left the building. And all that is left are broken Vows, failing Marriages, and yearned-for Love+ … and fault-finding – don’t forget fault-finding … and blame … and bitterness! Because we ALL lose when we take “Relationship+” and “Love+” out of love.
So finally – let’s talk God (or whatever your name for your God) … Need I say more? Has the point not already been made?
Except for this: do we KNOW when someone is playing games … has been terribly hurt by those who prefer religion (and control) to God and Love? And do we really know when “God” has left the building – because did we ever really recognise Him in the first place? And are we able to distinguish (do we even wish to distinguish) between the constitution and institution of Religion and Church – and God? Because they are not the same, nor ever will they be.
I am sad when I hear “Religion. Church. God.” used interchangeably. They are not the same.