Give Us Religion Where the Good Things Run Wild

Most religion deserves the criticism that it’s designed to keep people on a very short leash. Not one of those 20’ retractable kinds, but 6’ feet of inflexible, yank-your-head-back rope.

Religion and its gods prefer domesticated people. Fences. Shock collars. Firm grips. Short leashes. Control.

@@When the gods take their pets for a walk, they can’t have them running wild.@@

I wish there were a religion where there was a certain order, some rhythm and rhyme to things, a certain rule to establish broad boundaries, but then most everything else was free.

A religion with no rules isn’t really religion. That’s what we call anarchy and chaos. And it’s quite ugly and inhospitable for humans. A religion where my neighbor is free to chainsaw his way through my front door, shoot me, and rape my wife isn’t much of a religion. It sounds a lot like hell.

@@But a religion with too many rules, too many fences, too many leashes, a religion that damn near dictates how many squares of toilet paper you can use, isn’t much of a religion either.@@ It’s what we call slavery. Or prison. A zoo where people are kept behind bars and stared at by little gods on elementary school trips. And it too is quite ugly and inhospitable for humans. In fact, that sounds like hell, too.

No, what we need is a religion that balances freedom with responsibility. One that sets up a certain order, a certain rule, the goal of which is to let people have plenty of space to go crazy doing good. Just imagine that. A religion where leashes are banned. A religion where we’re not treated like dogs. A religion, as G. K. Chesterton says, “where the good things run wild.”

That’s what Christianity is supposed to look like. I’m not saying it always does, or even mostly does. But I am saying that’s what Jesus came for. He didn’t come to lay down 1000 rules to govern our day. He came to lay down his life for us. He didn’t come to slip 6’ leashes on the necks of his canine followers. He came to set us free.

He came to emancipate us from slavery to the law. To lift us from the prison to the castle. To make us not only free but family. His brothers and sisters. His fellow-heirs. Why, he even calls us friends. What kind of God does that!

And he gave us one main rule: love one another. Not the do-whatever-feels-good, make-yourself-happy, kind of pseudo-love. No, I mean real, divine, self-giving love. Love does no harm to the neighbor. Love doesn’t knife your friend. Love doesn’t sleep with your neighbor’s spouse. Love doesn’t cheat and steal and hate and impoverish and abuse others. Love protects, defends, upholds, gives and sacrifices for others.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty good rule to me. @@I’ll take a religion ruled by love over one ruled by leashes any day.@@

And Jesus basically says: As I love you, go love others. As I do good for you, go do good for your family, your friends, even your enemies. As I have died for you, be ready to die for others. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whatever you say, know that you are free to lavish good upon the world. To consider others more important than you are. To pour out your heart and soul in service to others. And as you do that, you’ll find true freedom from yourself and a kind of free bond to others.

A religion where I’m God’s friend and child, not his pet or slave. A religion where God actually died and rose again to make me alive. A religion with no short leashes, but full of freedom to love passionately, prodigally, and purposefully in service to others. A religion where, yes, there’s a certain rule, where there’s order, but the goal of this order is to “give room for good things to run wild.”

That sounds like a religion I can live with. And die with.

And that’s one of the reasons I’m a Christian.

My new book, Your God Is Too Glorious: Finding God in the Most Unexpected Places, is now available. You can order copies from Christian Book DistributorsAmazonBarnes and Noble, or your favorite local bookstore.

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