Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: LOVE (agape and/or phileo) (03/12/15)
TITLE: The Religion that Aint.
By David Butler
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He answered the altar call because he knew somehow he had to. Yet it seemed as though he was just walking the same old treadmill again.
‘I still don’t get it. I've been slaving my insides out for years trying to get this Christianity thing right, but there’s still something missing. And all you can say is “God loves you”? Sorry, but all this lovey-dovey stuff don’t cut it with me. Okay, God is the boss, and a good one I guess, but why do I still have this emptiness inside?’
Ken, his assigned counselor, smiled his understanding.
‘How did you relate to your own natural father?’
A bitter shade darkened Jerry’s face.
‘Don’t bring him into it. Bad analogy.’
‘Okay then. I know that you’re a good father yourself. You nearly lost your own little boy last year. We were praying for him when he was in hospital. How did you feel then?’
Jerry looked up.
‘Yeah, and we appreciated it. I was moved to tears, I’ll admit it. That’s why we came to church. But that’s a real life experience. What’s that got to do with…?’
He caught his breath as it suddenly hit him.
‘That’s right!’ Ken pursued eagerly. ‘God nearly lost you. He’s a much better father than even you are. This is not a religion, it’s a relationship.’
The light finally dawned in Jerry’s face. He blinked away tears he’d nearly forgotten how to shed.
Jerry shook his head in frustration.
He had started off well with his new Christian life, but it was such hard work staying on cloud nine. The preacher called for those who were struggling to come forward. Swallowing his pride, he went.
There was good ol’ Ken again.
‘Sorry, Ken, I just can’t do this. I’ve tried to walk the straight line, but the old habits are coming back. The temptations are even stronger than before. What do I do? God must hate me now, after all He’s done for me – and I throw it all back in his face!’
‘Jerry, this is normal for us all, myself included. God’s not mad at you.’
He smiled. ‘Hey, tell me how young Joey’s doing?’
‘Joey? The greatest young rebel never hanged!’ laughed Jerry. ‘Now he’s turned three, he’s going through a real learning curve, let me tell you. Into everything and won’t take “No” for an answer.’
‘...So... you have to stand over him with a big stick, right?’
Jerry was a bit indignant at that.
‘Absolutely not! I’m not that sort of father. I keep him from harm but make sure he suffers the consequences of any willful bad behaviour. I don’t expect him to be a saint. I encourage him when he gets it right. I work with him and explain why some choices will do him harm. We’re a team, him and I, and I’m proud of him, whatever he does.’
Ken looked Jerry in the eye.
‘That’s what the Father is like. This aint a religion...’
‘...It’s a relationship!’ finished Jerry, laughing with relief and pounding his head with his fists.
‘Man, I've got such a thick skull! Thanks Ken.’
Missions Week was a resounding success.
Many answered the altar call enthusiastically, ready to reach all nations with the Gospel.
Jerry answered the call too. He walked forward, but with less than the usual level of enthusiasm characterized by those other Kingdom warriors.
And there was Ken. Grey-haired now, but still with that twinkle in his eye.
‘Hi Jerry. Ready to “Go forth and make disciples….”?’
Jerry shook his head in frustration.
‘Well, I can’t lie, Ken, to you of all people. Yeah, there’s such a huge need out there, and who’s going if I don’t? I know all that. God commanded it, so I guess I’ll have to go. But I can’t honestly say my heart’s in it. I feel far better working in Community Ministry, but that’s nothing compared to what we've heard this week.’
Ken thought for a moment. ‘How’s Joey doing at college.’
Jerry brightened. ‘Great! He was worried that I’d be mad at him for choosing Engineering over Social Work. That’s been our family’s tradition for generations. But I told him he was destined to be a brilliant engineer. He’s never looked back since.’
‘You know what, Jerry? I think you’re destined to be a brilliant Community worker.’
Jerry gasped, then laughed out loud.
‘It aint a religion, it’s a relationship!’
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