If I adore You out of fear of Hell, burn me in Hell!Rabi’a Basri
If I adore you out of desire for Paradise, Lock me out of Paradise.
But if I adore you for Yourself alone, Do not deny to me Your eternal beauty.
The Bible in many ways is a love letter from God to us, but we often read it as a long list of do’s and don’ts, and sometimes it is even read as a threat. This is the basis of the psychological critique of religion made popular by Sigmund Freud. Freud said that the faith of Moses rests on a God who’s always asking more than Israel can give. Hence there’s a perpetual cycle of demand and failure, and guilt and sacrifice, demand and failure, and guilt and sacrifice.
Freud may have had a point if religion was indeed a human creation, if our faith was nothing more than fire insurance. The grace of Christ brings joy, or it’s supposed to anyways. We would do well to remember that God desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6).
I don’t believe God wants to make us guilty or even for us to feel guilty. God wishes to give us joy and abundant life (John 10:10). Yes, God gave the Ten Commandments because God wanted to provide Israel with a guide for which to live. Still it is the joy and beauty of God which should conjure our worship and obedience.
The Christian life is not a list of rules and regulations telling us, “Don’t do this,” and, “You must do that.” Being Christian invites us into the presence of God, into a life and relationship with God and God’s people, a life and relationship predicated upon mercy and love.