The above picture depicts very nicely what I would like to see Religion become.
An empty cage.
You see, God loves it that people of faith have a hunger for Him, a seeking after meaning, and a desire to be near Him. He blesses their efforts with His Presence.
But Religion can also be a cage. A cage of seeking approval from God, humans, even ourselves, for what we do and what we are. And part of that approval relies on us not ‘rocking the boat’; not causing others to question their faith and so on. In some ways this is good, because not everyone wants to actually move on in their faith into deeper things. For them, the ‘security’ of ‘knowing’ what they want to know is what they want from their faith, and that’s fine.
But at the same time, for those who desire the freedom of the wide open spaces of God’s love (and that includes His full approval), there is the stultifying pressure to conform to others’ expectations. So many of Jesus’s parables and instructions, if you really look at them, were actually concerned with not being worried about what others think of us; but instead to seek God’s approval – or, more accurately, to rest in His already-existing approval of us.
And in the case of Church leadership, this is extremely important. If the Church really does need leaders (something I am not convinced of) then that leadership needs to be forward-looking, and leading their flock further into the things of God, not sitting with their wheels spinning in the mud. So here’s the brilliant Jeff Turner, addressing Church leadership in a simple yet profound piece:
If you’re a pastor, and people fear being hauled into your office for asking the wrong questions, reading the wrong books, or discussing the wrong ideas with the wrong people, I’m afraid you’re no longer operating as a pastor. Instead, you’ve taken on the role of elementary school principal, and have juvenilized those under your care in the process. You’re not there to squelch curiosity, or to tell people what they are to think. You should be the thought leader, and by that I mean the person pushing the boundaries, and calling people into the unknown!
Leaders aren’t leaders if they don’t ask “why?”, and they certainly can’t help people move beyond where they are if they don’t practice the art of questioning and wondering. Pastors: become curious about your faith, your God, and your place in this world again! Don’t leave people stuck in the tarpits of certainty, but help them move forward by becoming a student again!
I can so identify with this. You see, the way I see it is that if you have no questions, then by definition you think you have God all sorted out; all ‘taped’. There is nothing more to learn about God, which by definition means that we know nothing really about Him as He’s infinite; a never-ending fascinating Being Who’s full of surprises and amazing revelations. ‘Pressing in’ will be pointless because you’re not going to learn anything more about Him than your Bible, and your bosses, say you are allowed to.
I call that being in a cage.
Contrast that with the vast, open spaces and deep oceans of God’s freedom, with a never-ending voyage of discovery about His nature and His ways…and that voyage lasts forever…how is living in that former cage ever again going to feel like it’s where you belong?
My blog is about freedom. Use the search bar on my blog pages to find more about the freedom you have – as your birthright – as a believer and as a Child of God.