Monday, February 4, 2013

Superficial or Supernatural

One of the many blessings of being a Salvation Army Officer is that we get to meet and engage with a lot of people. After 16 years of service, 3 appointments in three states, 3 overseas mission trips and several territorial and international training opportunities, you can imagine that we have interacted with an awful lot of people! Then, add online social networking on top of that and the friends list gets a little daunting, even for a type A extroverted personality like me. Out of all the people we have met, how many do we REALLY know? How many relationships move beyond a superficial acquaintance into the realm of genuine friendship? Or in Facebook language, from the acceptance of a friend request to face to face interaction?
When you consider the breadth of your own social networks, both online and in real life, you will know that it is impossible to be really friends with everyone you meet. Yet, some people choose to live life entirely at a superficial level, content with not really knowing or interacting with anyone at any real depth. Relationships seem so much less complicated when they are kept at a superficial level. In a movie I enjoy called 'Good Will Hunting,' Sean, a psychologist played by Robin Williams, is working with a very troubled young man, Will, who is a genius, yet keeps everyone in his life at arms length, not letting anyone get close to him. In a scene where Sean is trying to help Will understand why he is pushing away the one girl he really likes, he challenges Will's superficial relationship, "Maybe "you're" perfect right now. Maybe you don't want to ruin that. I think that's a super philosophy, Will; that way you can go through your entire life without ever having to really know anybody."

What's interesting to me about this superficial philosophy is how much it relates to not only interpersonal relationships but the way many Christians choose to interact with God and the Church. My observation of these Christians is that they choose to "go through [their] entire life without ever having to really know anybody" and wonder why their faith remains at a superficial level and their experience of God seems so distant. Superficial religious observance becomes an inadequate substitute for a deep spiritual experience and never really satisfies the longings of a yearning soul, no matter how hard you try.

Religion may be a useful vehicle to understand and express faith, but it is no substitute for authentic relationship. Our experience of God must go beyond what we do and become an expression of who we are. Superficial religion without supernatural relationship is powerless and will leave us feeling empty and incomplete.

Don't settle for a superficial religious experience when a supernatural relationship with Jesus Christ and a divine encounter with Holy Spirit will radically transform your life! 

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