Who's relevant to who?
I heard a phrase this last week that always used to seem so honorary to me. "Our church tries to make God relevant to the world in which we live." On the surface, this doesn't ruffle any feathers. I can completely understand the sentiment of the statement. And yet--at the risk of arguing semantics--there is something so heretical about uttering something so backwards.
In order for someone to make this sort of assertion, they must believe that God is, in fact, irrelevant, in and of Himself, and needs our help in the P.R. Department. It is the subtle belief that God--left to his own devices--will never amount to much. He's treated like aging elder in a nursing home. We know they are alive, but they don't have a life. We talk to them loudly with pre-school language. We pity them, humor them, and bear with them. We treat them as if they are out of touch with reality. They don't understand what's going on in the world. They take sponge baths and need hospice assistance to do the most rudimentary hygienic tasks. They rock back and forth all day staring at the wall until someone musters up the courage and compassion to visit them in their detached reality. In our minds, they don't relate. We have to work hard, unfortunately, as a culture to make their lives seem worthwhile. This is sad to me.
But I feel like we talk about God with a similar set of paradigms. We speak about the Bible and the Life of God as if He needs hospice and we respond with the equivalent of bedside manners. We treat him like he needs our face-lifting and spin-doctoring. We work feverishly in ministry to try to translate the Scriptures in a way that "makes sense" to people in the "real world". It's easy for me to take great joy in explaining God to someone and then have them say, "I never understood that until you brought the cookies down to the bottom shelf". It does sometimes seem that God does, to borrow the expression, have his head "in the clouds" since he's "up in heaven" and we are "down here on earth"...and needs some "competent human" to make him palatable for the confused masses.
But I wonder if the opposite is true. What if the main reason for the churches decline lies in our lack of relevancy to God? What would it look like to live a life that made sense to God? I work hard to make God "seem" real to people, as if he's not real. I say things like, "Talk to God 'as if' He was a real person." or "Live like He's right there with you." In saying this I'm essentially saying, "He's not real and He's not here." And then I work hard to make it look "as if" he is. I get creative with metaphors, word pictures, practical applications, marketing strategies, and branding methods. It gets me wondering, "What if the real problem with the church is our relevancy to God?" What if I worked harder try to make people seem real to God? I wonder if we are the one's who've lost touch with reality and in an effort to explain how life has turned out, we've misdiagnosed the cause by blaming it on God's relevancy to our reality instead of the other way around.
What if we've become irrelevant to God? What if the church has been deceived into believing the problem lies with God and our assignment as Christians is to set him straight by saying things like, "I know sometimes he seems awkward, but deep down he's a really good person." I'm not sure he needs our apologetic excuses. In fact, I'm sure he doesn't.
The life of God is, in fact, reality. It is "the real world". It is the relevant life. It is only as our lives become irrelevant to him that our Christianity becomes irrelevant to the world. We must bear witness to Him "as He is"--that is more than sufficient to take ones breath away. He needs no cosmetics. He needs no embellishment. If we would focus on seeing him...and singing what we see, saying what we see, I wonder if that would cause the attraction that we are slaving to manufacture. I wonder if He could draw people all by himself to himself. I speak of course of the unadulterated, unsullied, completely captivating God of all gods. Could he be enough? Would he be just fine without our makeup? Would he blow our minds as our lives became relevant to his reality?
I wonder how many things I've just plain got backwards about my relationship with God?