When I was a little girl I played with baby dolls. I had one that would tilt her head and giggle when I raised and lowered her right hand. I had several baby dolls, but my favorite was my Baby Alive by Hasbro. She was amazing. She could drink from a bottle and eat from a spoon. A little motor somewhere inside her made her mouth move. She even rewarded her “mom” with a wet diaper to change. As a little girl, this doll felt so real to me. She was my baby. She was all soft on the outside and had pretty blue eyes, and a sweet little mouth. Her blond hair lay in little curls on her head, always perfect. She never cried, slept when I laid her down, and ate when I wanted to feed her. On the outside she seemed so real. But apart from the motor placed somewhere on her inside, she was empty.
Religion is like that. I’m not even a fan of the word, “religion” and I shudder when I hear people call me religious. Apart from brushing my teeth every day, I’ve never been religious about anything. Religion looks all good on the outside. Religion causes us to do all the “right” things, but if you ever look inside religion, you find that apart from the mechanics, it’s all empty. Pretty on the outside, empty on the inside.
I played with my Baby Alive for several years, but eventually I grew tired of what was missing. I pretended she was real, even wished that she were real, but she never offered me what the real thing could. I never even completely understood what I was missing until I became a mom of a real baby. Yet from the moment I held my first-born baby boy, I understood completely the difference. As I looked into his eyes for the first time, and those sweet little baby eyes looked back at me, I would never take anything less than the real deal.
I never wanted to put my baby down in favor of an empty doll. Of course that would be crazy, but sadly, that’s what many Christians do every day. The real deal is right in front of them, and they set that aside for empty religion.
The American church has offered us a religion and has called it Christianity. We are told it’s all about the things you can’t do and the few things you can, most if which don’t sound very fun at all. It’s little more than a list of do’s and don’ts with a whole heaping pile of guilt if you ever slip up. Yet even scripture tells us that trying to keep all those rules will eventually bring us death. We need the real deal, not an empty substitute. The truth is we need relationship, not religion. The day I discovered the real deal, I never wanted empty religion again.
I no longer struggle to follow a set of rules or laws for God to accept me. Rather His laws are written on my heart and because of His great love for me, and for my love for Him, I seek to follow those. Hebrews 8:10 (NLT) says this:
“But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
Are you finding faith empty and religion meaningless? Good. This time, let me ask that you throw that baby out with the bath water. Pick up the real thing. It’s life giving, not life sapping. It will bring you into an amazing relationship with a God who loves you just the way you are, and who wants so much to write His way of living on your heart.