If you ask any religious person, they will say that what God requires from us is ourselves. That is, God wants our devotion. He wants us to focus on Himself.
However, here’s a dizzying truth I’ve discovered: God doesn’t give a rip whether or not He’s at the center of your life. He doesn’t care what you think of Him—or if you think of Him.
It’s okay, you don’t have to back away because I’m about to get struck with lightning. Watch, I’ll do it again.
God doesn’t care what you think of Him.
Here’s the false logic at the heart of every religion: God exists; therefore, you must orient your life around Him. Without God, something’s broken about you. That’s wrongheaded. God exists—but that fact doesn’t make an iota of noticeable difference in our lives. I mean, nothing would exist without God, true. We only keep on keeping on because God holds reality together. But that’s all “behind the curtain.” We don’t take note of it. We just live. (See What role should God play in your life?)
I know it sound noble to say we must devote our lives to God—all monkish and stuff—but the truth is that that mode of living is unproductive and unworkable.
Unproductive—If God really did require that we focus our lives on Him, it would have some benefit, wouldn’t it? It would work. But what do we find? Unbelievers are as happy and successful as believers. God makes no difference. If “having God in your life” did actually make you happier or more successful—let alone more “godly”—churches would never have to evangelize. People would be storming their doors to get in, paying any price.
As it is, it’s clear to everyone that everyone else they pass on the street, believer and unbeliever, is living a life of quiet desperation and trying to hide it from the others.
Unworkable—Just how does one focus one’s life on a silent, invisible being? If God required our devotion, He would have given us the ability to actually connect to Him. Following the teachings of the Bible? Sounds noble, but it, too, is unworkable, as, one, the Bible has multiple points of view on most issues, and, two, those points of view are just the desperate guesses of men. (Actually, that’s a charitable way of looking at it, as if the human authors we’re yearning to know God’s will. Really, I think they were perfectly happy just to go with their gut. I think most of the truths in the Bible are just examples of men codifying the status quo. Feels right. Hence, we stone homosexuals for perverting the “natural order.”)
If God actually revealed Himself, we wouldn’t need scripture. That we have to have scripture to know what God requires from us proves that God doesn’t reveal His wishes to us. Scripture is us panicking in the vacuum of God’s inscrutability. God is silent, so we speak for Him.
We have to piece together the clues from God’s silence. When we do, the inescapable conclusion is that, if God does require anything of us, it’s to focus on stuff down here on earth, all the things He’s given us, starting with our loved ones. Those relationships are both productive and workable. Those folks are the ones we go to for advice when life slaps us up against the head or leaves us in the checkout line without our wallet.
God? He’s no help, at least in any way that really matters.
Fortunately, the world rocks. It’s full of beauty and wonder. It’s full of people who love us despite our disagreeable odors, who love us no matter what, who come over when we’re dumped by our girlfriends and listen to us kvetch.
My life is focused on stuff down here, like my kids and my fiction career, which isn’t surprising because the world is beautiful, it tastes good, and it responds when I call its name, like my cat now and then.
Yet 1 John 2:15 tells us: Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. The false logic here is that if you’re not devoted to God, you’re vainglorious—which is another way of saying one needs to “have God” in order to be good. A God who finds fault with us for delighting in the delicious, voluptuous and fair-smelling things He has provided for us would be a real evil tease, like the witch in Hansel and Gretel. Come inside and have a treat, dearie! If God’s unreasonable like that, we’re all screwed. Might as well enjoy ourselves now, because, I’m here to tell you, spending eternity with an unreasonable God will be no dance around the maypole. He’s always short-sheeting you and yelling at you turn down the volume after you already have.
So stop worrying about being devoted to God. Do something just for yourself. Have another piece of fudge. Hug your mother.
Photo: Sorrow by Grigory Kravchenko CC BY 2.0