"But Lord...I'm so upset with this whole thing! What do I do to release this pain?"
Start writing. Now. Tell them how I was misrepresented.
That conversation with God happened about two nights ago, around two in the morning. Frustrated, angry, sad, confused, I was blowing up. Then God told me to start writing, so I did. I hope you care enough to read along. If not, thats okay too.
Growing up, I was raised in a different kind of church. Every Sunday I would enter the building and go to Sunday school and sing along with my friends and family. Along with my own family, other people we knew very well went to this church as well. One day, my dad decided that he wanted to start go to a Church closer in town. So we did.
I think it was no longer than 6 months after we stopped going to our old church that I pretty much stopped hearing from the everyone who we were close with that went to our old church. Close relationships with these people transformed into an occasional "merry Christmas!" or a "happy birthday!" It was at this point I began to believe the lie in my head about God even more clearly that I would never be good enough for Him. I felt that my performance would never be acceptable to a God who was concerned about my church attendance or my status as baptized or non-baptized.
Instead of showing us love, grace, and support when we really needed it the most, my family and I were shown rejection. Perhaps they believed by pushing us away, they were doing God a favor for not going to "their church" anymore. It seemed to me that they were wrapped up in the idea of God being some kind of scorekeeper. A God who keeps tabs on anyone who slips up by not maintaining a perfect score with their church attendance record.
In this day and age, its the church itself that is idolized, instead of Jesus. It's all about going to church every sunday and having that perfect answer ready in response to every question given to us in Sunday school. We seem like we have Jesus down to the core, by dressing pretty on church for Sunday and then doing whatever we want any other day of the week. Are we blind? How can we sit there and convince ourselves that this is it, that Jesus died on the cross so we would... go to church? Have we not understood that Jesus Himself wanted nothing to do with religion and wanted everything to do with a relationship with Him?
We say we love God, but when God calls us to forgive someone, we run away. We put aside our brokenness and choose to carry shame instead of bringing ourselves the cross to experience God's love and forgiveness. Instead of loving God as we claim we do, we really demonstrate that the only thing we love and worship is religion itself. We claim we know God, yet it's impossible for us to show grace, forgiveness, and compassion to others. We began to pull out bits and pieces of the Bible for us to follow with our own lives, and forget the point of following the entire book.
Jesus says I love you the way that you are now already, religion says I will love you more if you do this or that. Jesus says show grace and love to everyone, religion says love and forgive only those who you want to love and forgive. Jesus says we'll experience His love for us more by reading his love story for us in the Bible, religion says God will love us only if we read the Bible period.
What happens when we replace religion with Jesus? We get a whole lot of...nothing.