“Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand.”
~ Psalm 37.23-24, NRSV
Today’s socially acceptable Christianity, that is this understanding of the religion made popular by reality television, movies and their stars, spoofs and television evangelists (who seem to be one and the same these days), talks a lot about what the Lord is doing for those who believe. Prayer has been reduced to “blab it and grab it” or dismissed altogether as we need only “believe it and receive it.” It is as if God is now subject to our every whim and wish. God is now our subject, made to serve us and not we to serve God. Heaven forbid.
Still, viewers are seemingly instructed to cast spells on God: “Bibbity- bobbity- boo!” And if it doesn’t work, it is not a matter of God’s will but that we lacked faith. This kind of theology suggests that it is not up to God but to us. We did not believe strong enough, want it bad enough or most often, give enough. “Sow a seed (i.e. send money to me) and you will reap a harvest,” they tell us.
Some of these same persons and many others would not even use the word religion, only associating it with rigidity and rules, despite the fact the word is used in the Bible and true religion defined (James 1.27). We still need stability and laws. These persons would exchange the word for relationship. I guess that it sounds better; its predecessor now treated as a dirty word and an enemy of the now post- modern church.
Of course, we have a relationship with God and God is relational, communal even in nature. But, often when the word is replaced, God’s relation to us changes and with it, God’s identity and subsequent authority (at least in our minds). No longer a family member, Father God or Brother Jesus, God becomes our peer.
God is then treated as equal with us, able to be understood, nothing mysterious, easily manipulated and controlled, no will of his own, effortlessly put aside until we want him, no longer omnipresent or divine. And this God does not tell us what to do; instead, we provide direction and we only need God to follow in our footsteps.
So, the words of the psalmist would prove troubling as there is a qualifier, an expectation or responsibility of the believer to do what is right, to do what pleases the Lord in order that the Lord establish one’s direction. And if we stumble while on this path that the Lord has created, we have the assurance that God will ensure that though things make become shaky, we will not fall headlong. But, God will be right there to encourage us to take the next step.
So, for those of us who are taking directions from race (the word and experience that has replaced true religion and suggests that relationships are what we make them as opposed to what God desires), ordering our steps according to prejudice, listening to what it says about God, ourselves and our neighbor, where are we going? Where is race taking us and would God be delighted?
How long will we walk with hatred in our hearts and prejudice before our eyes? How long will we stumble through life, making sure that persons who are “different” from us never touch us, never share a neighborhood, school, or job opportunity with us? How long will we fall headlong because we would rather have these socially constructed relationships than to practice true religion, “loving your neighbor as yourself”?
Join me in walking in the path that pleases God. Follow me as I follow Christ in this race-less way.