Do you ever notice that God has a bit of a bad rap in some circles. So many people think of God and religion in the same way. They believe that a life lived for God must be restrictive and boring. Or even worse, the only things they’ve ever heard about God are full of fire and brimstone, and presented as a way to scare them into believing. “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is a hand!”
My first experience with God was very similar to that. I wanted to be a Christian because I didn’t want to go to hell. But can anything that comes of fear be good or lasting? Is that really the message Jesus preached?
If you’ve been reading this blog, then you know I always bring everything back to my own experience as a parent. Would I rather my children behaved well because we share a mutual love and appreciation for each other, or because they are afraid of my punishments and reprisals?
It makes me sad when I see God’s message distorted to scare people (because I absolutely believe it is a distortion). The people who really know God, the ones who carry the message Christ preached in their heart, they know that our God is a God of love. They know that Christ came to save the world, not condemn it.
So that brings me back to my question. Does God want you to be happy?
“And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. ” 1 John 1:4-5
The gospels and letters of John are perhaps the most full of love in the entire bible. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved best. Maybe because John most understood, or was closest to Jesus’ heart. So yes, I absolutely believe that, like any good parent, God wants us, his children, to be happy. I can’t claim that I don’t have darkness in me. Sometimes I yell at my children out of anger or frustration. But God is the perfect parent. Everything he does is to make us the people he created us to be. Everything he does is to bring us closer to him.
Now that being said, I’m not saying that God is a completely permissive parent. Like any good parent, he gave us a set of rules to live by. He loves us enough to give us boundaries and rules, designed to keep us safe and happy. Don’t you do the same for your children…out of love?
And when your child disobeys how to you respond? Do you correct them? Do you discipline them? Why? I’m guessing for exactly the same reason you gave them rules in the first place, because you love them, and you want to keep them safe, and to help them lead a happy and successful life.
So doesn’t it make sense then that our Father in heaven, who has no darkness in him, does everything for our own good?
I think that the closer we draw to God, the more we follow his rules for life, the more he rewards us in big and small ways, by glimpses of his love. And when we keep our spirits focused on him, and not the distractions of this world, we come closer to finding the peace and happiness that God wants for us. A peace that passes all understanding. A joy beyond anything that we could ask or imagine.
So when you hear people tell you that they don’t want a God who punishes people, you can tell them that isn’t the God you believe in. Tell them that your God is a kind and loving Father and that everything he does comes from a love that always wants to draw you closer. A love in which there is no darkness, only light.
So what exactly are God’s rules for us?
- Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
- Remember the sabbath
- Honor they father and mother
- Thou shalt not kill
- Thou shalt not commit adultery
- Thou shalt not steal
- Thou shalt not bear false witness
- Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbors.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I read these all I see are rules about respect. Respect for the God who created us and loves us, and respect for each other. These are a set of rules designed to make our lives better, given to us by a kind and loving Father.
I’m guessing that not many of the people reading this blog are going to have too much trouble following rules 6-8 on a daily basis. But what about taking the Lord’s name in vain? Honoring your parents? Coveting? Keeping the sabbath?
The more we make God’s rules a part of our lives, the more in communion we are with Him, and the happier we become. God wants all of his children to live in joy. But we need to do our part to make that happen.
So this week I challenge you to pick one rule and try to make it a habit, part of your daily routine. If you find yourself feeling envious, think about all of the gifts God has given you. If you find yourself taking the Lord’s name in vain, correct yourself and say sorry. Try prioritizing church for a month. You’ll be surprised at the joy you’ll find in following God’s rules. And, yes GOD ABSOLUTELY WANTS YOU TO BE HAPPY!