Why Do We Do What We Do?

“Wether we like to admit it or not, many religions of the world are concocted to hold fear and control over people. Nobody likes to talk about this, but it’s the way it is. The human psyche is vulnerable because of its built-in fear of failure, and becomes an easy prey.” Ravi Zacharias, Walking from East to West, page 22.

Why do we really do what we do? What motivates us to pursue religious disciplines, serve others, better ourselves?

In all major world religions, aside from Christianity, there is no assurance of salvation, there is only hard work and wishful thinking. This provides for “worship” that is fear-filled, not love-driven. People will do crazy things out of fear, like bleed themselves for their gods, sacrifice precious and valuable things, fast for days, kneel and chant, bow before nature, kill others, and….you can fill in your own crazy stunts. All religious actions can become formulaic. If I do such and such, I will be prosperous, or healthy, or powerful. And what if something is not done just right? Will God have his revenge on me? Perhaps I’ll just lose my basketball game and not my life.

It is easy and natural for us to think, “If I don’t do this, God will not love me.” Satan masks himself in the faces of many religions and demands things, and out of fear, people comply. Jesus relates to us and freely offers us grace, life, forgiveness, and out of love (and conviction of the Spirit), people come.

A person who loves and a person who fears may do the same things – pray, attend the house of the Lord, fast, show respect for his neighbor – but the topography of their hearts is as different as mountain and plain. One fears disappointing God. The other loves with child-like faith. Fear is the gas in the car of legalism. A legalistic heart fears even legalism, and condemns self for failure to live by grace.

Are you in a religion or a relationship? Do you worship or practice magic? If you engage your relationship with Jesus as a “wave the wand” experience, an “I’ll do this, you do that” sort of thing, you’re bogged down in legalism. True worship flows from love. Perfect Love casts out fear.

Perfect Love does not abandon a covenant because its vassal forgot (or chose not) to pray in the morning. Perfect Love does not judge His child for skipping a Bible reading. Perfect Love reaches out, a hand on each side of the cross, and bleeds until a resurrected embrace  conquers the fear-stricken sinner.

If you are one who has a critical inner voice, it’s time to yell back, “Enough!” Isn’t that what Jesus said on the cross? “It is finished.” Don’t berate yourself for that nagging “I should….” Just turn the other way, away from fear that you’re not doing enough. You may even try saying out loud, “I will not listen. Love is the only voice I will hear.”

Before Martin Luther found grace in the book of Romans he talked the ear off his priest confessing every minute detail of his life. We will never confess all our sins because we aren’t even aware of how awful we are. Besides, the cross covers all sins forwards and backwards in our lives because Jesus, and his grace, are beyond time. The words of Perfect Love are, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” So come and rest, and leave the fear behind.

Lessons from the Beach

Something happens when God snatches away familiarity through the passage of time. Rebirth. Revision. Renewal. And out of this newness comes remembrance. Standing on the beach after years of being inland, I remember my childhood. I see inprints of God in the sights and sounds that are now uncommon to me.

I cannot help but pick up shells at the beach. How many of those blue mussel shells have I picked up over the years? And yet I am compelled towards one more. That blue against the gray down below my feet, and up above the gray clouds hiding a hopeful bit of blue. As I bend down to pick up the shell I marvel at all this beauty. So many grains of sand, shells that have been ground up and beat up by waves and crabs and tennis shoes until they are no longer shells of blue, white, purple, pink, red. All is gray now, grains snuggled against grains. The small added together to make the large.

How much beauty goes unnoticed? Camoflauged anenomes. Clam squirts. A hungry heron. The crabs hiding under the rocks. Each barnacle. Each shell. I cannot see them all. Their beauty outnumbers me.

So I start to think of all other parts of creation that secretly serve their creator. The moments missed by the human eye. Salmon swimming upstream. A frog’s wild jump. The butterfly’s emergence. Beavers building. Water evaporating. The fern unfurling. A doe birthing a fawn in quiet green pastures.

He leads me in quiet green pastures. Green for abundance.

There is an Eye that sees them all. Creator Beauty, smiling upon his six-day portfolio which could aptly be entitled, Spoken-Into-Being.

Unseen beauty is not limited to nature. Who knows a man’s spirit besides the Lord? It is the Spirit that knows the hearts of all, and I cannot help but wonder at the beauty that waits to be revealed. The beauty I refuse to let the Spirit surface in me. How the heart and mind lies down in quiet, green Spirit-filled pastures and births beauty – new ideas, impossible dreams, amorphous desires that grow into skeletal realities.