A Relationship on God's Terms - Paula Murray
Updated: May 12
Paula Murray perceptively explores how having a relationship on God's terms would look, suggesting it is one built on freedom and acceptance; not obligation.
So we’ve accepted God into our lives and we’re on a journey with him but what does that even mean? What is a relationship with God even supposed to look like and are we really walking in the life of freedom that God is offering us?
Often our relationship with God is simply based on our terms and interpretation, and to be honest, we probably listen to the devil’s version far more than we should. Would it look completely different if we allowed it to be God’s version?
I’m guessing yes! – that God’s idea of a relationship with us is vastly different to how we’re living it.
Religion v. relationship
It’s easy to treat God like there’s a formula for getting it right, that if we tick off each requirement God will be pleased with us. But following a list isn’t a relationship. And if we don’t tick off the requirements we can start to feel guilty and distance ourselves from God.
There’s no doubt that a journey with God requires our investment in it – that’s a given; spend time with God, read His word, pray. From this we start to see evidence, changes, fruit (Galatians 5:22). But God says “I want your loyalty, not your sacrifices. I want you to know me, not to give me burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6, GW), and so the very idea of just ritually coming before God doesn’t stack up.
A few years ago God challenged me on this one. It was on Mother’s Day, my husband was at work and the kids were left in charge. They knew what to do, they had their list, they made coffee, they brought the presents, they said hello and then they left. They’d done their bit, they’d ticked off the list. I knew they loved me, but where was the wanting to spend time with me and just enjoying being with me?
It’s easy to treat God like there’s a formula for getting it right, that if we tick off each requirement God will be pleased with us. But following a list isn’t a relationship.
And I realised that’s how I’d been treating God. Simply doing what I ‘knew’ to do, ticking off the list, quiet time, reading my bible, feeling grateful, praying.
So what would God’s idea of a relationship look like?
Generally at home we’re at our most relaxed, we’re free to be ourselves. We show a side others may never see. Family experience us at our best and worst, they see our bad habits and nuances and we’re okay with that. We extend the same grace back to them. We make allowances and we hold each other accountable.
There are house rules and boundaries, but if we’re simply living out a list of these without bringing in our unique personalities, traits and flaws, we may as well be robots. Each relationship would look exactly the same. Home wouldn’t really be much fun.
So why do we treat God and our church family differently? Why do we try to hide our frailties and our shame and leave God and others out until we’ve got things sorted or simply walk away because it’s all too hard? Why do we so often feel that there’s a disapproving God looking over our lives, and a disapproving church alongside him?
Why do we judge ourselves and each other when God’s grace is clear – it’s been freely given to us, it isn’t something we earn “I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God and it didn’t work……for if a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily” (Galatians 2:19-21, MSG).
And surely this grace extends on after we become Christians or does God only keep accepting us if we are living a perfect life? The stories in the bible would suggest otherwise and perfection was certainly something that Paul struggled to attain.
God knows we’ll falter and doubt, but assures us that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23) and “..nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38). In fact Romans 8 is a great read in itself (I particularly like The Message version)
So how can we start experiencing a relationship as God intended?
Don’t let guilt, shame, inadequacies and failures get in the way.
Does that mean that we can do what we like? Of course not, that’s not how relationships work, but the more we let failures keep us from God, the less we grow, and the devil knows that.
Remember that God’s mercies are new every morning and instead of seeing a disapproving God, see God next to you saying – you stuffed up, don’t worry I’m here for you, let me help you sort this out; you’re struggling with that issue or addiction, I know it’s hard, I’m fighting for you, let’s tackle this together; you can’t spend as much time with me today, I know you’re stressed, let me bring my peace into your day
Then just delight in being with Him, come as you are.
Psalm 1:2 is my go to. It refers to those who delight in the scriptures – not just those who read them. So reverse your thinking – it’s not a chore – we’re meeting with God and he loves us in the most incredible way, in whatever state we happen to be in – just like family – so relax and delight in just being in His presence!
A relationship on God’s terms
So instead of living a formula, we begin living a life with God at the heart of it, working with our frailties and the uniqueness of how He has designed us.
And once we start to grasp the extent of His grace and depth of His love, it starts to bring a beautiful sense of freedom and acceptance – a relationship. Then the grace and compassion He extends to us, we begin to extend to others. We begin to treat others like family.
Paula works as an Undergraduate Programme Manager at AUT. She was born in NZ but grew up in the UK where she met her husband Andy at the church youth group. They emigrated from the UK 23 years ago and have two amazing teenagers which led them to getting involved in Tribe & then becoming parent leaders for Fusion 4 years ago. Paula loves reflecting on the journey that God has been leading her on and seeing how His power has worked through her weaknesses. // Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Father-and-son-on-beach1.jpg
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