There is a distinct difference between “religious” and “relationship”. Jesus even writes about this in the story of Martha and Mary. Jesus loved both Martha and Mary, and they loved him. There was a distinct difference between these two women though. (Luke 10)
Martha was “distracted with much serving”. She was a busy body- she did all the right things: cleaned, cooked food, readied the house, but she did so with anxiety, fear, and that transferred to her getting after her sister Mary for not helping her. We all know the busy bodies who get worked up about the little things- the food, the cleaning, everything else but they forget to greet the guests and make them feel welcomed. The simple hospitality that goes beyond preparing the food.
Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and just listened to him. She spent time with him and built the relationship; She learned things Martha couldn’t. Martha was stressed with her busyness and jealous of the relationship Mary had with Jesus, she lashed out and asked Jesus to send Mary to help her- but Jesus defended Mary and said she did well and that her time spent with him wouldn’t be taken from her.
We see this in our churches. There’s some churches that are busy with bake sales, parades, missionaries, etc.- all good things on the outside. But on the inside what most don’t see is the stress, the annoyance, the pride that their church is better than others because they do more. Jesus seen this in Martha.
Than you have small churches with a small congregation. They are simple, gentle, but the relationship inside the church is strong. Everyone knows everyone else, and their families, and their health, even their pets. If one person is sick- there’s many who bring them food, visit, and pray for them while not in church. No one is stressed, or angry at anyone else. Everyone is just there to help everyone else. This is like Mary and Jesus. The relationship is strong. Jesus could simply lick his lips and Mary would have jumped to grab him something to drink joyfully. Martha, in her distraction, would never notice such things and might even see it as an annoyance to be pulled from her task.
Those that have a true relationship with Jesus are obvious. They are the “Clara’s” in the movie “War Room”, they are the Martin Luther’s (Protestant reformation), and they are the Mary’s who sat at Jesus feet. They hunger for His teachings, have no fear in declaring the truth, and no shame in spending time with Him.
Relationship with the Lord is very important. Jesus stated over 20 times in the gospel “follow me”. It’s very simple and childlike. “and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4). God wants us to be His children, He wants us to come to Him, to spend time with Him just like a small child listening on their parents lap, even if they don’t understand all the teachings. To trust just as a child holding their parents hand as they cross a busy street. To love as if the child got hurt and run to the parent to hold them close. Finally, to rejoice as if the child ran to look at a toy and got lost in a busy shopping mall and came back to the parents just as the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32)
The parable of weeds (Mathew 13:24-30), I feel, describes the Martha’s And Mary’s of our churches. The parable talks about the kingdom of God is like a farmer who sows good wheat in his field, but an enemy throws weed seeds in too. The wheat and weeds grow together (to pull the weeds would uproot the wheat) until harvest. A funny thing about wheat is when it’s ready to be harvested it bows at the stem just like the believers bow to Our Lord. Just as weeds are in the field the religious come to church but they do so pridefully merely just to try and proclaim that they go to church so therefore must be a good person. They do works, but have no faith. They seek no relationship with Jesus, daydream during sermons, and can’t wait until church is done so they can get on with their lives. Just as the weeds, they do not bow, but stand proud at the harvest time. Jesus doesn’t make another entrance in their life until the next Sunday when they drag their feet to church. these are the same people Jesus has warned,
“Later the other virgins arrived and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us!’
1But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’
Matthew 25: 11-12
The parable of the ten virgins also describes ten believers who had their lamps but only five were prepared with oil (the relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit). When Jesus came only 5 of them had oil to light their way. Jesus said to the rest of them that came later “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.” Matthew 25:12
True relationship with Jesus is essential. He loves every one of us, and has prepared a place for us in heaven, but in his journey he never made anyone follow him. He never turned anyone away who wanted to listen. He never dragged them to his sermons and never waited while they finished their task for them to follow. He always told them- leave everything behind and follow me. If they paused than Jesus said they weren’t ready to follow him (they had no oil like the Virgins, they did not bow like the wheat). Jesus was not hesitant to correct anyone either, not because he was mean, but because he loved them. He wanted them to know the right teachings so they were not lead astray. Just as a shepherd corrects the direction of His sheep, He corrects us in our ways because He loves us.
Darrick and Kay