Friday, March 21, 2014

Who Cares About Personal Experiences?

We've all heard the statement that Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship. I believe this.

Religion is a set of doctrines. It's a set of rules and regulations. It's cold. It's heartless. It's sticking your nose in a book (most likely the Bible... and commentaries.... and dictionaries...).

A relationship, on the other hand, is about true experiences. It's passion. It's a desire to strengthen and stay connected. It's all heart. It's sometimes sticking your nose in a book, but letting yourself feel the experiences so many authors within the Bible write about.

There is just as much to learn in a personal story than in a scholarly essay!

 

Personal experiences reach people. They often make someone stop and say "Hey! I understand what you're feeling. I've been there. I'm glad I'm not alone."

But these experiences aren't important enough to scholars. They aren't worthy of sharing. They don't "teach" anything.

Or do they?

Look at the Bible: the life journeys of Moses, David, Job, etc. Or, the book of John - a telling of John's personal experience following Christ. Many of the books in the Bible tell of the personal experiences of different people. These books aren't of people breaking down the languages used and what is meant by this or that. They aren't scholarly. They're about ordinary people experiencing God in their lives. Some are filled with lament. Some with joy.

If the entire Bible read as a text book, who would want to read it? Who would truly learn anything from it?

Most of what I write is simply personal experiences. I'm not talking the "my life was horrible, but then I found Jesus!" type of writing. I'm talking about the day to day struggles. I'm talking about the times when I've cursed at God for being cruel; and the times I've fallen to my knees begging for help; and the times I've looked up to heaven and praised Him for being such a wonderful Father. I'm talking about the struggles and joys and frustrations and love I've found while trying to follow Christ.

I'm talking about the things everyone goes through in life

 

I have been incredibly touched and brought closer to God by many of the articles I have read which were personal experiences. I have learned more of God's love through these articles. I have had my faith increased by the mere sight of others' faith. I have gained a greater understanding of why God allows things to happen, and the fact that He is always by my side, by hearing these incredible personal experience stories.

Yes, there is a time and place for scholarly articles. I enjoy reading those as well. Knowledge is important, and can actually strengthen one's faith. I would never consider dismissing these articles as unnecessary or unimportant.

But in the same manner, we cannot discount personal experience. This is what Christianity is based on. It's a personal experience with God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Without personal experience, all you're left with is a lot of knowledge that means nothing.

If you were struggling with belief in God... or didn't believe at all... And all you find on the topic are scholarly articles about the Bible, or about what is needed to be a true Christian, but never read or heard people's real life experiences with being a Christian... would you want to follow God?