Maybe you’ve heard the quote: “Many professing Christians, for all practical purposes, live as functional atheists…” – Dan DeWitt, Jesus or Nothing
Many times in today’s American Church culture we have been taught to de-personalize God and treat him in such a way that we are living as atheists even if we are talking like people of faith.
In fact, we have gotten so skilled at over-spiritualized language in the Church that we can convince others (and most times ourselves) that we are in a relationship that we are not actually in…
Depersonalizing God is like saying we are married but not actually living with our spouse.
Sure, on paper you may have a marriage license. But for all intents and purposes you are not actually married. You might call them your partner, but your lived experience says you are single.
This is what too many in the American Church have experienced, and then been told by someone that’s what a relationship with God is like.
And it’s an absolute tragedy.
I know, because “the faith that was delivered to me” looked a lot like that for too much of my life (as opposed to “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” spoken of in Jude 1:3).
I recognize the difficulty of relating to this God is who simultaneously incarnate and holy, personal and divine, and king and friend.
But that is the very task that is before us as the Church.
Making a distant-God normative for Christianity is not the solution. Yet many times this is done, whether intentionally or not.
One easy example would be in how we speak to God.
So many times we use “public” language, lofty words, or repetitive phrases. We throw requests at Him like he’s a vending machine or a genie. We “invoke” His presence like He’s the force.
Or some even “overcorrect” in a way that ironically creates the same problem by talking to him like they would text their boyfriend or girlfriend.
All of these things do not create the space to relate to God in the personal way He desires.
If we will allow Him, and follow in the well-worn pathways that generations of Christians before us have walked, He will lead us into the kind of relationship He so desires.
The problem seems to be that we mostly abandoned those well-worn paths.
We’ve “innovated” our faith into impersonal patterns that require things of God He does not necessarily desire of a relationship with Him.
There’s a dissonance going on when we depersonalize God. And we’ve got to re-personalize Him before we can do anything else for the kingdom.
We can begin by recovering the well-worn paths of the first disciples and early church.
We can eat meals together in one another’s home as means to share in the Eucharist.
We can pray together – pray over one another, pray for those we care about, pray about things we need, pray in thankfulness for all we have.
We can meditate on the Scriptures together – allowing each person to bring their full selves to the fullness of the Bible and seeing how God meets them in it.
We can be generous together by sharing when someone in our faith family has a need.
We can care for one another, forgive one another, listen to one another, and be the very hands, feet, and presence of Jesus to all those we encounter.
As we live out these very personal and communal ways of faith we will recover a relationship with the deeply personal and communal God we declare to know.
May we allow God to live with and among us in such a mysteriously personal way that those around us come to know Him just by being among us.