Long before I came to be a Christ follower, I remember looking into the night sky and considering my own insignificance.
I may not have articulated it in those words, but I certainly remember having a sense of being a small speck on a small speck. It was sometime later when I read the words of a Psalm attributed to a man named David that I joined him in asking the question: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:4 NIV.
When I became a Christ follower, the question became even more significant as I considered any relationship to God as part of the human family and my own personal relationship to Him. While I was never swayed by the argument of the liberal luminary Karl Marx, who said, “religion is the opiate of the masses,” I came to an opinion that relationship was of more value to me than religion for religion’s sake.
There is not enough time, or perhaps even desire, to discuss all of the incidents of abuse, both real and imagined, by those who claim religion as the source of bad behavior by an individual or group. But it was noted some time ago that it is possible to hide behind the facade of religion as a justification for selfish behavior.
James, who many describe as the brother of Jesus, wrote, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” James 1:26 NIV. Rather than spend a lot of time on the potential value of religion, I would rather spend time considering the idea of relationship and what that looks like at least from one perspective.
One barrier to a relationship with God may be as simple as how we define Him. “The man upstairs” is a popular description, but misses the reality of God on so many levels. First of all, the Bible teaches we were made in His image — not that He was made with all of the imperfections of man; there is neither space nor time to remind us of that.
Putting God “upstairs” separates Him from us and our problems and is opposite of how Moses described God’s relationship to His people. In fact, that was one of the things that separated God from the little “g” gods of the surrounding cultures. “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” Deuteronomy 4:7 NIV.
Focusing briefly on that verse, I would suggest that communication is the foundation of relationship and that real communication is based in trust. In the words often attributed to Solomon: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6 NIV.
Upton has retired as pastor of Tooele’s First Assembly of God after 27 years of service. He is now chaplain of Rocky Mountain Hospice and the Tooele City Police Department.