Even if you’re not a student of the Bible, you’ve probably heard the story of the Exodus. Think Charlton Heston and that old 50’s movie version of The 10 Commandments that shows up on network TV a few times every year. I used to read that story with such a sense of superiority in my heart. Those poor, pitiful, naive people. God splits the Red Sea for their escape, a miraculous supply of food on the ground every morning, and to top it off a giant pillar (a cloud during the day and fire at night, just for dramatic effect), not only to guide them on their journey, but to be the tangible realization of God’s presence in their midst at every moment. Yet somehow in the glow of that very pillar, they took off their gold rings and jewelry and asked Aaron the priest make a golden statue of a cow to be their God (see Exodus 32). How obviously stupid can you be? Right?
Until I realized…we do the same thing.
God offers us a personal relationship, a genuine encounter with His Son Jesus Christ, and yet we somehow migrate back towards interacting with Him through a system, a culture, a set of behaviors. A system is safe, it’s tangible, it’s measurable, it’s controllable. And at the end of the day, our finite minds don’t know how to process, let alone relate, to an infinite God. So we shrink Him down into understandable, touchable, controllable outputs.
We all want to control God. We’d never say it (at least most of us), and our logic tells us otherwise. But if you really dig deep, it’s reflected in your instinctive impulses. You want control of your life, your decisions, your world…your God. And so do I. Our systems for attempting to connect to Him become our own version of that golden cow. God in our midst, longing for relationship through the One way He provided, and somehow it’s just not good enough for us. Too messy. Too organic. Too scary. No control.
Jesus is a person we encounter, not a system or sub-culture we live inside of. Whether you grew up in a church setting or far away from the things of God, how do you see Him? Really? Dig deep and ask yourself. Did you accept Him or just the system, the culture, your heritage? If you’re a cynic or a skeptic, have you really rejected Him or just all the systematic, cultural baggage that’s been attached? Do you know Jesus or have you made your own golden cow? I don’t care how long you’ve been a Christian, it’s a good question to ask.
What do you think? Do you agree? Do we really have a natural propensity to turn Jesus into a system to follow, rather than a relationship to be cultivated?