December 13, 2004

What Compels us? Force and Fear or Our Weakness and God's Love?

What compels you to do anything in life? Does forcefulness persuade you?

It may for a time, but in the long run, you will grow to resent the use of force aimed at you.

If someone tries to manipulate you with fear, will that compel you to do anything?

Again, for a time it may. But some time afterwards, resentment and bitterness will take over and stop you from doing the very thing that fear motivated you to do in the beginning.

There are many people who have turned their backs on God. Some of these people chose to because they were at some point in their lives forced to go to church or to take part in other religious actions that they wanted no part of.

Christianity is not a religion of force but many misguided Christians have demonstrated it as such.

You cannot force your views upon another and go against the very will that was given to them by God and expect any good to come from it.

I was never forced to attend church and I never felt forced to live for God.

I consider myself very fortunate that I was not forced to do these things by my parents or by anyone.

I had some friends who were forced to go to church and they were not happy and they did not feel the freedom in their lives that I did. I recall one friend of mine who had fights with her parents and grandparents practically every other Sunday over the issue of going to church.

I felt sorry for her for having to go through this.

I thought it was too bad that a parent would force their child to go to church. Her parents were very devout Christians and my parents were not living for God and therefore not pushing their beliefs upon me, their child. Of course I felt freedom where my friend felt only pressure. I felt at the time that there were other issues between my friend and her parents. There is also another thing I remember. It was the way I felt, knowing that it must have been hard on her to understand my desire to go to church and live for God and her not having that same desire.

I understand why she didn't. She was Forced and I was not. God does not force any of us to do anything we do not want to do.

I'm sure there are many of us who felt forced to act in a certain way or to agree with a certain view held by church members. I can recall that pressure I felt from church members to agree with their views, etc.

But I did not agree with them on issues that went against what I knew to be the truth as outlined in the Bible. This has caused me to not be very popular with many Christians.

Why must anyone try to sway others to believe something that only they themselves feel so strongly about? This is on line with manipulation.

We should not ever seek to control anyone on any issue. We should seek to get the truth of God out to the multitudes of people who are lost. That should be our desire and objective.

I believe that if we as Christians would just live our lives the way God tells us to live, love others and truly seek to help those in need, those actions alone would show the love of Christ and there would be no need for anything else. It is our actions and our words that are supposed to express who we serve. Not what we say absent of good fruits

The pressure, petty manipulations, and the lack of total faith in God to preserve those who are his.

These are some of the key reasons why I seldom attend church now. Things have not changed since I was a teenager with the exception of an increase in deception and merchandising. Many church members and those in authority in the Christian churches still attempt to force their will upon others around them. It's all about control. Jesus was not about control, he was about teaching the truth along with faith, love, mercy and compassion. A free will is a horrible thing to lose. If you lose your free will, you are no better than a mindless robot.

From the Parents to the Children

I have never forced my children to go to church. They either go or they don't. Now on this subject, I have Christian friends who disagree with me. That doesn't bother me, and I am not hostile toward different views. I believe that my decisions about how I raise my children comes from my upbringing somewhat.

I was not forced to attend church by my parents, so I did not feel that particular pressure. All of us are affected to some degree by how we were raised and what we learned earlier in our lives. What I have tried to do in my life is to teach my children the principles of Christianity at home first and not to rely on the church to indoctrinate them.

The church does not need to do for my children what I was told by God to do myself. I think that many Christians are too content with forcing their children to go to church and learn through the leaders there instead of teaching them at home. The problem is compounded for many of these kids because as the parents are sending the kids on their way to church, the parents never attend and that is wrong. It's a double standard. The parents in many instances forcing their kids to do what they are not willing to do themselves.

Children always pick up on this and will rebel accordingly. I feel as though I was given a gift in not having Christianity forced on me in my younger years and am sure now that I am older that this had much to do with my endearing faith later in life.

Fear as a Motivator and Spiritual Burnout

A spiritual relationship with God based upon force and fear will go nowhere. I can hear many Christians out in cyberspace right now who are disagreeing with me. But let me ask you a question.

Do you find it comforting and uplifting to have a relationship with another person that you fear or who attempts to force their personal beliefs on you? I personally do not. Why should we then find it acceptable to have a relationship with God based upon fear or force or both?

When anyone forces religion upon another based upon fear, the end result is not good.

I had friends that made the decision to accept Christ as their Savior simply because they were fearful that if they didn't, they would go to hell. At that time in my own life I was learning much and caught up with my own new relationship with God and so I didn't have the time nor knowledge that I do now to discuss the subject of force and fear in relation to Christianity. But I remember that the majority of preaching by their pastors and parents was geared toward the fear issue in regards to salvation and living a godly life. Many of those friends of mine did not last long in church and suffered spiritual burnout as a result. Spiritual burnout happens when you are working at a fevered pace to live the Christian life. You grow tired and weary and give up. It is at this point that some completely turn their backs on God and decide that they will no longer serve him. But others find that spiritual burnout is a positive turning point for them. In reality, suffering from spiritual burnout is the best thing that could happen to a person caught up in the cross hairs of religion. We are not able to live a life dedicated to God in our own power. It is only by the Spirit that we are able to live a life that is fulfilling and that brings glory to God. We have a responsibility to turn over our lives to him, we alone must make that choice, but it is HE and not we ourselves who keeps us all the while we are submitted to him as his obedient children.

I should know because I suffered from spiritual burnout. And when I was finally spent and had nothing left in myself that I could cling to in order to live the life God and others expected me to live, that is when I gave up and told God, "I cannot live this life, I cannot do anything without you God". In my own power I have nothing to offer, nothing to give anyone. Take me and use me for your glory, with all of my weaknesses, you're welcome to them as well and see if you can do anything about them. Just take them and allow me to have strength through you. I had to realize how truly weak I was while at the same time recognizing God as my tower of strength.

That is coming clean with God, that is what leading the Christian life is truly all about. It is not about attempting to be something you are not. It is not about putting up false appearances. It is not about forcing our beliefs upon others, it is about each one of us personally making a decision based upon the truth of the Gospel and allowing God to be God in our own lives.

Who Keeps Us?

Anyone with eyes and understanding can read the bible for themselves and conclude that Jesus was not about FORCE or FEAR. So where does this twisted thinking come from?

During my years of being a Christian as well as listening to other Christians,
I am convinced that it comes from a lack of faith on the part of those who are supposed to be teaching and leading us.

They believe that if they do not instill fear in us, mixed in with a dab of force and crack that spiritual whip that we will not live a life that is centered upon God given morality.

What they neglect to understand is that it is God himself who keeps us and has patience with us during our walk with Him.

They neglect to understand that it is not by might, nor by power, but it is by his Spirit that we are kept in his care.

So whether it be pastors or parents, they feel it is their responsibility to BRING US INTO the kingdom of God and then to KEEP us in a position of submission and control and in order to accomplish this, they use Fear and Force. They will do or say what they feel they must in order to assure themselves that we are living for God and that we stay on the right and holy path. I have seen this my friends. I have seen this type of fear and force in action.

I am not saying this is right, but it does happen this way much of the time. I've seen it at work. This is why many have felt negatively toward Christianity for years.

We must learn that it is God who keeps us by his Spirit, but we have a hand in making the wise choices that lead to our submission to him. Nobody can force you to submit to God. But it isn't for lack of them trying. Man likes to believe that he has control of things, even if it is just a little control, that is better than none at all. But submission to God is entirely in each of our hands and a choice that we must make individually every day of our lives. Only we have the power and the choice to submit to God, keep ourselves humble with God's help and to follow him. These choices will lead us toward our own spiritual progress. Another person's spiritual progress we have nothing to do with apart from building up one another instead of tearing each other down, and being willing to help one another. When it comes to telling people what to do and how to manage their lives, we have no business being caught up in another's spiritual life.

We should be there when they ask for help, prayer and our opinions based upon the word of God. But aside from these things, we should never allow force to take up residence in our hearts and lives in any manner.

Preventing the Pressure

I have found some things helpful. I tend to stay away from a majority of churches and I stick to studying what the Word of God says and applying it to my own life. In addition to these I pray a prayer almost daily that God by his Spirit would keep me humble. I feel the world very desperately needs God's people to love them and to care for them. If our light is supposed to shine in the darkness, then what are we doing keeping to ourselves in the churches? I never understood that.

But isn't it ironic that nowadays, there are many in the churches that are in darkness?

I have seen much foolishness in the Body of Christ spanning over 30 years. This has helped me to know a scheme from the real thing and the truth from error. I don't claim to know a lot. There are many more out there that are more knowledgeable than me. There is still much I do not know and I am on a journey just like everyone else in this life. I do not expect to be perfect when I am taken out of this world and into the next. If I know more next year than I did the year before, I am quite content. I don't struggle to gain much knowledge. I take life as it comes at me. Leaning on and trusting in the God that made me. Living life tends to make all of us more resilient and knowledgeable as every day and year passes.

I find that many Christians do not want to admit it if they don't know an answer to a question put to them by unbelievers. Why can't people just admit that there are some things that they don't know? Whether you are a Christian or an unbeliever, not any one of us can claim to know all things. The only one who does know all things is God himself. But many Christians fear that if they do not know "all the answers", it will make God look bad. This is ridiculous thinking. It does not make God look bad if we don't know all the answers. We are his people, we are humans and he is God. If someone asks me about something I don't have a clue about, I will tell them that I don't know. God has given us what he wanted us to know in the Bible, and the rest will be answered by him at a time of his own choosing. Who are we to demand all answers to all things anyway?

A Time to Fear God

In conclusion, there is a time to fear God

Those who have totally rejected God and cast him and his truth aside based upon the adequate knowledge they have had of him should fear him. These should indeed fear the judgment of God because those who knew the truth openly defied God's truth and they chose instead to discard his love and count it as nothing. They also counted the sacrifice of his Son as nothing, those who do these things should fear God. Sadly, many are too far along in deception and darkness for it to matter to them that they have rejected the one who made them.

Only God knows if you have come to the point in your life in which you've had chance after chance to turn to him and have decided to stay in your pride, stubbornness and rebelliousness.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But here again, God gives us the choice to believe in him, to serve him or not. While it is so very wrong for anyone to try to force their beliefs upon another, ultimately you are all responsible to pick up the bible and gain knowledge that God and not man has provided for you. There will be no excuse for those who do not do this. Nobody will be able to say in that day when standing before God at the judgment, "Well, I was taught wrong by preacher such and such and that is the reason why I rejected Jesus Christ". Although it may be true that preacher such and such was teaching you contrary to the Word of God, you KNEW to go to the source which is the Word of God. Some do not know to go to the source instead of trusting in man to tell them the truth. Well, now I have cleared that up for a number of people and I stand on record as having told you.

Maybe I will be the only one you will come across that has told you this.

Go to the source and trust not in man! Go to his Word that he has provided for you.

God is angry if you have been given the truth, have understanding based upon that truth and you still choose to reject him. He does have long patience with us, it's true, but it is a dangerous line you are crossing each day you spend in rebellion towards God. But even that rebellion is yours and has not been forced upon you, it is chosen by you and you alone.

Has the Holy Spirit spoken to your heart? Have you been turning a deaf ear and heart to him? These are the reasons to fear God.

It is only through our brokenness, admitted weakness and desire for a way out of our shattered lives that compels us to give up and trust in God. This is why pride is a killer. This is why pride is one of the seven deadly sins. Our pride blinds us to these truths.

We must see God's strength and power as greater than our own because it truly is. We must realize our own frailties and weaknesses. We have no need to rely upon God if we believe ourselves to be strong and fully capable of managing our own lives and directing our own steps.


Anonymous said...

I am totally stunned by this article you have written. You are older than I and have much wisdom and you have finally helped me understand what has been wrong with my life walk with Christ.
I too "burned out" with Christianity. I had NO choice on service attendance, and as my husband said to me, you had a spear point in your back. I was forced for over 10 years to attend very strange church services. My step father was a lay minister. He did not marry my mother when they first met but they shacked up for a year. I was a kid of 10 and totally confused by this. How can you say you are Christian if you do this? So they got married. I then am forced to go to churches that had shouting from the pulpit for hours till my head hurt, screaming and dancing and sweating and speaking in tongues very weirdly, freaking out people shaking on the floor all around me. That frightened me. They fell over and broke pews and we had one regular guy that did it like a performance.Demons seemed to live in everybody and had to be beaten out of a person. As I grew older I was forced to sit for many hours at weekly prayer meetings till I fell asleep. From 5 p.m. till 2 or 3 a.m.weeknights.On Sundays it went for 8 hours with no food or water and very few bathroom breaks. I would get faint with hunger. I sneaked food finally in my bag. I was exhausted from these. I just wanted to be a kid, go out and play in the green grass. My husband says that is a torture technique. He spent 20 years in the Military and understands what is and isn't torture techniques.
I was told constantly at dinner night after night about how the world was going to end soon, and we were all going to die, people would be selling their cars for food and shooting each other in the streets. I heard how having children in the future was going to be horrible, as Christians were going to be hunted down and killed. I was becoming despondent and suicidal. I wasn't sure if life was worth living.
I finally took an interest in music and my brother and I were forced to play for the people, forced to "bless them", it was our duty to do so or else. There were times I felt so angry I would not smile while playing. I glared at the people. I caught Hell for it.
And I was supposed to be thankful.We were not supposed to laugh in front of my Step Father because we were conspiring against him somehow. My stepfather loved to point out all of our mistakes and if we didn't make any he made up something we did wrong and forced us to ask for forgiveness.He was really hard on my Mother. My mother became so hard on me for being selfish for not LOVING God and for liking to do other things in life. She prayed every day for 4 hours. I had to do the housework most of the time.
I watched several times the deacons or ministers seduce the gullible women in the congregation. That hurt their husbands, as they were confused and hurt. A few of them got pregnant.It was becoming like a bad Jim Jones movie for me. I was totally and completely turned off to the church. I wanted escape.
So I married one of the boys to get out of my home. Very big mistake. He wasn't ready even though it was his idea to marry. Guess he wanted something to get away from his family but he left me anyway.
At this point I hated God and all Christians. I am supposed to be in
some church I am told today but all I have ever seen is lying, cheating, fakes, and people who throw scripture at you condemning you on all counts for just being yourself. I finally walked away from any church at all.
I asked God to show me IF there is anything else. I tried other churches for a time and found they were full of well dressed perfect people who could not answer my questions and basically did their duty to being in church on Sunday and then went shopping. I was dying from hunger for God. I believed in God, I knew there was one somewhere. And after reading your article I felt like crying that SOMEONE understands my horrible experiences and makes me want to try to just read the Bible and see how to live a kinder life. I am giving to others, kind to my neighbors, I try to show love to others and go the extra mile, most of which would not do the same for me when I had need. What a world. So what is it to really KNOW GOD? I am still searching.
I have had great problems with self confidence all my life, and I have suffered from a feeling I am supposed to be perfect. And you are right, when asking a Christian about things and they don't know the answer, they get upset with you for asking.
What Would Jesus Do? Turn away a very hungry soul too? I hope not. Thank You for letting me know I am not insane and that I am not selfish and that the churches for the most part art very legalistic or just plain crazy. I don't know if my experience has been unique or if there are others having this same pain. I can only pray they can read something like this and know they are not sinful for being afraid of the church.

cicowner said...

Dear Anonymous,
you have been through the ringer in your life and I am so pleased to hear that this article did you good. Your husband was correct about this being a long drawn out torture. Spiritual abuse is a reality and I can see from reading your comment that this is what you have suffered from. This is the main reason I stear clear of "churchianity". Notice I did not say, Christianity.... What you must do is know that God loves you, you can find God always through the word of truth- The bible. I have known many friends who have been forced to attend church and have felt utter despair such as you have. Know that you have someone that understands. Keep reading here under the topics of "Understanding Christianity" and I do hope this helps.