My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Religion comes from Greek terms meaning “reconnection.” Appropriately, all faiths have a final end of connecting with whatever god they teach about. Christianity is no different except how that reconnection takes place. The full testimony of the Bible, from cover to cover, is about the work of God, through his Son Jesus Christ, to redeem the world that, lost in sin, is completely unable to find that reconciliation alone.
In his book titled simply With, Skye Jethani challenges the way that many even in Christianity attempt to establish a relationship with God that is not in line with the story in the Bible. He describes these alternative, and what he assesses as ineffective, methods to seek for God and finally offers the solution for a relationship with God.
Finding relationship over, from, and for God are all self-centered ways to have a relationship. Jethani suggests that each of these begins with a person trying to find significance from God or get their needs met by God. In many ways, even though it often involves the best of intentions (especially in efforts to live for God), it becomes more about what we can get out of the relationship.
Likewise, (and this next point I have issue with) he also thinks that a life under God is a wrong way of going about it. The way he describes it, I agree with Jethani, but his discussion is fully inadequate. He suggests what I would describe as a life lived under the law, not under God. It would be a tragedy for anyone to think that our faith is about living by the rules so that God will be pleased. Christianity is nearly the opposite: Jesus came to fulfill the law because we are fully incapable of doing so. By his work we are saved not only because we are forgiven, but because God accepts Jesus’ righteous life in place of our own. Essentially when God looks at us he sees his Son.
Even though we are not responsible for it, God’s Law is to be followed. While as Christians we do not live under the burden of the law, we are still called to live a moral and righteous life. This righteousness of our own making can never be perfect, but it is a sure sign that the Holy Spirit is alive and active in our regeneration. We do live under God, not under his law.
As I read each chapter and learned what Jethani thinks about living life under God, over God, from God, and for God, I began to get nervous about what he would say about living a life with God. Unfortunately, what I found in the final chapter was not at all what I have described here as the essential truths of Christianity.
With, according to Skye Jethani, involves as series of meditative and mystical practices including lectio divina, which is essentially Bible fishing alone and in a comfy chair in hopes that some sort of enlightenment will come.
The problem with mystical practice is that it encourages one to find God within and develops a different set of criteria for relationship with God apart from the work of Christ. I have no doubt that some will object to my position, commenting that this kind of practice does not take the place of Christ’s work, but supplements to a more full “experience” of God.
I must, then, say that I have come back from that practice, which seemed so enticing but ended up leading down a road of despair and confusion. Instead of living a life with God, this practice quickly becomes a life built in effort to live under, over, or even from God as the individual tries to find this amazing experience that is at times felt, but does not offer the reality or fulfillment that was promised.
God came in human flesh to be with us. He left his throne to have a relationship with us. He lived in our sinful world to be with us. He stood under temptation to be with us. Jesus became sin even though he knew no sin to be with us. He willingly laid down his life so that he could be with us. Christ resurrected from the dead to be with us. He send the Holy Spirit to dwell with us. What more could we possibly do?
Rest in the finished work of Christ. And respond by living in the light of his love, which cannot possibly leave you the same.