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A Conversation with Religion

RELIGION sat with me at noon seeking to share some conversation, (although I knew we had so little in common.) He chatted on about his philosophies, and politely I listened as I stirred my cup, wondering if all the while it was his intention to convert me.
       Opening his coat, he showed me a pocket for each of his wares. "I keep Buddha in here," he said , pointing to a spot on the upper left side of his vest. He shares a place with Krishna and dozens of leaders of other ancient theologies. I have one for every style and taste. New ones are springing up daily and I accommodate them with equal space. There's room for each and every ideology, and they all seem to function rather nicely. So my question to you is,..." (He looked at me narrowly and I watched the thunderclouds as they rolled into his eyes.) ..."my question is..." he repeated as the clouds and his voice began to merge, "why then is your God so difficult to manage? I just can't fit Him in at all with His claims of being the One and Only Way. And I find His boldness somewhat offensive."
       I could tell he was trying to be polite, but his manner and his tone were strained.
       "Don't you know," he continued, his hands fluttering in the air like clumsy wings, "don't you know how offensive it is to the multitudes and multitudes I shelter within?"
       He looked at me, watching for his answer. Was he the hungry cat waiting for my words to emerge just so they could be caught and twisted? Or was he honestly seeking at this point in his existence?
      In this brief silence, his words had floated down to a level with his shoes where they settled momentarily. And when the air had fully cleared and I had a space to speak in, I began slowly, careful of the words I would choose, for I knew his words were watching me.
       "Your question is not new. I've heard it many times before. And it is true that Jesus Christ claims to be the One and Only Way. So how could He really be the Truth in a world where it seems so many truths hold sway?"
       "My question exactly!"
      Religion's words sprang into the air, then fell back again excitedly.
       "We once lived on a vast and uncluttered plane," I continued. "The view we had of God was clear and unchallenged, until like sheep, we went astray, each one looking to his own way. Turning from the sky, we buried our lives in the earth. Idols began to emerge from the dirt, rising high above the horizon, blotting out the Son, distorting our view of the Light until all we had was shadows in our eyes.
       "Pride tends to fashion gods to suit its self. So we bow to the gods our hands have made and pretend that they can hear us. We plead, some in primitive cries, others with sophisticated prayers specifically designed to tickle a deitie's ears. But the graves continued to appear. We could not stop them. They encircled our idol's feet creating a landscape of death, yet, we insist the view is normal.
       "So in a world where many created gods exist, and many roads curve and twist toward 'truth', how could the Only Truth be heard through the noise and confusion, and show Himself as Life, the Oasis in this desert of man-made illusion? Would He shout in the thunder or roar in the earthquake? Would He tear through each nation with a whirlwind's destruction and force us to bow to His power? Other gods have pushed us to the dust in submission. Would not the Living God do the same? Would He bellow His Diety through the wind of fear? - Or would He call in a Still Small Voice that only a little child could hear?"
       Religion suddenly frowned. What was he thinking? The words by his feet were studying me, so quickly I kept speaking.
      "No, the Living God would not bellow and shout, for then He would sound just like any other god. The Living God is a God of Love and His Love would be defined and set apart like a diamond in the night. So Love would sing a special song unlike any other, for Love would give more than any other."
       "Charity is one of my most redeeming features!" Religion beamed. "So what can be the difference between the Truth and me?" "Compare your notes," I answered. "Thumb through your pockets and see. Your followers all sing the same song, no matter how diversified the melody. Your way to God is one of labor. You give them tools to build a righteous house that will never give them shelter, for they are always striving to attain, never coming to a place of rest, for the rooms will always remain unfinished and empty. They follow you on a road that has no conclusion. It twists and weaves, then turns. And at the very moment the weary traveler expects to reach his promised rest, the road veers off again stretching aimlessly toward another futile destination. No one ever rests. No one ever comes home."
       And the True God sighs,"Listen to the Whisper. I have loved you. I haved called you with the voice of My only begotten Son. I have set Him before you to pierce with your sins. He received your anger. He gathered your pain into His arms and cried to Me to heal you as He died. Then I kissed Him in His tomb to bring Him back to life, so you would believe and live with Him forever. I have called you to cease your labor. For faith in Him has crucified religion and set you free. I have built the house. I am your home. Come and rest in Me."
       Religion stared at me coldly as I listened to the sound of hammers pounding from his breast like a heartbeat growing louder as every breath brought more cries and chanting and the noise of a multitude continuously shifting from within the confines of a prison whose door had long since been ripped from its foundation.
       Religion quickly buttoned his coat, muffling the sound and concealing the restless movement within. Without another word he stood and left the table. I watched him walk toward the city. His words followed him like small dogs yapping at his feet as he gathered dust into his pockets to feed the souls of all the ones trapped inside his pockets.
      Once or twice he nervously looked back at me as he went. For as I had spoken of Life, he knew I revealed his death. For the True God could never be contained within that dusty old cloak of his. The Love that burned in the eyes of grace would warm him if he remained. And the dark coat he wore would be shed in the heat of God's presence. Faith's breath would scatter the dust, exposing self, the secret god that Religion served. And the god of every lie, finally severed, would writhe in the Light of a brand new life, wither in the hand of Christ, and die.
      Jesus said, "I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life; No one comes to the Father, but by Me. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not true, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. Because I live, you will live also. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. And whoever comes to Me I will not cast out." - John 14:6, 3:16, 14:1-3,19,27, Matthew 11:28, John 6:37

And we know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding that we may know Him that is True, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the True God and eternal life. - I John 5:20

copyright 1999 by H.D. Shively

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