I’m not a cat person. That’s no secret (especially now).
With fur that makes me want to rip my eyes out (or dander… whatever), and claws that draw blood faster than a nursing student’s first attempt to start an IV on a live human, I honestly don’t know how anyone can be a cat person.
Even more annoying to me than the itchy eyes and bright red scratch marks is a cat’s overall world view. Yes, cats have a world view. And they put themselves at the center of it all. Every cat I’ve known walks around as if it is the god of its own universe, and its owner merely exists to cater to its needs.
I think we each have some cat-like tendencies in our spiritual lives. One of the most common declarations of faith even proves my point:
“Jesus died for my sins.”
It’s not that this idea is necessarily incorrect– more like incomplete. The result of Jesus’ death was the atonement of our sins. But neither our sins nor Jesus’ love for us was the motivating factor for Him going on that cross. He died in obedience to God’s will, and in order for God to be glorified through His death, resurrection, and then our resulting salvation.
The difference might seem subtle and you may think I’m just being nitpicky, but I have a feeling that God doesn’t want to feel like a cat owner with us (no offense to the cat owners out there). It’s pretty clear throughout scripture that God wants to be in charge of our hearts, not a servant to them.
Maybe this is all semantics. Maybe it’s just easier to say “Jesus died for my sins” instead of, say, “My sins were paid for by Jesus’ death and resurrection.” But to me, saying that it was all for ME is an illustration of our hearts that reveals some cat-like, self-worshipping tendencies in our hearts that our societies have let slip through the cracks.
Everything in the Bible is centered around God receiving glory. It’s not about Him doing us a favor because we’re too important to let fail. We’re not General Motors, and heaven is not like the US economy puffed up on finance and fake money.
Even our receiving of the Holy Spirit was not for our own benefit. It’s primary purpose is to show us how to be obedient to God’s will (His truth) and testify about Jesus (John 15:26 & 16:8-11). Before He is our spine-tingling comforter, helper, or healer, the Holy Spirit is our teacher for how to better glorify God. It took Jesus’ place as the Rabbi of our lives.
Whenever God does something, His motivations all throughout the texts are so that “we will know that He is God.” The motivation may be partly “because He loves us,” but it’s definitely not at the top of the list. There are literally too many scriptures to cite here and keep your attention spans, but take a look through Ezekiel 36 and 37 if you want to see a sample.
Does God love us? Absolutely. God wouldn’t have given His only son for a cause He didn’t sincerely care about (John 3:16). But I don’t think anyone can argue that, more than His love for us, He did it to restore His kingdom. To even try to argue that requires a worldview that (maybe indirectly or discretely) puts the creation above the Creator.
Jesus said there is no greater illustration of love than someone laying down his life for another (John 15:13). Love is all over the story of Christ and His church. But we tend to look at God as if He is just sitting around desperately waiting to answer our prayers. Most of us wouldn’t admit to thinking this way, but it’s as if His greatest privilege and purpose is delighting in and doting on us– as if He is worshipping us.
But God loves us for His own sake, not ours.
Another example of our cat-like tendencies is how some Christians view the Bible. For many, it might as well be found in the self-help section of the bookstore because that’s why we read it. Instead of being a detailed description of how to find our way into a closer relationship with our Creator though Jesus, and how we can serve Him and glorify Him most effectively, we’re concerned with how we get to be forgiven so that we spend eternity in paradise.
Don’t even get me started on our motivations for obedience. Jesus talks about obedience as a prerequisite for heaven in several places through the Gospels, but in each case, obedience is a measurement of our love for God, not our excitement to be in heaven. That’s not surprising (shouldn’t be, anyway) since loving God with our entire lives is the most important commandment.
Heaven was not created for us. The entire concept is a great mystery, but it’s a mystery made by God, for God.
We read that and we think of scriptures in Isaiah 6 or in Revelation. If any place features a throne, whoever that throne is meant for is who the entire place is meant for. A king’s palace isn’t built for those living in poverty outside the gates. It’s built for the king. We hear that and say, “Well yeah I know that…”
But do we really? It’s a big enough issue to warrant some really honest introspection.
When our motivation for following Jesus is to reach paradise; when our only reason to pray is to get what we want; and when our only motivation to read the Word is to put ourselves back together, we are worshipping ourselves.
Heaven is a place where we will essentially experience an eternal freak-out session about how enormously awesome God is. Kicking back on the beach with a margarita won’t quite make it on the cruise itinerary. Sorry.
Prayer is our plea for God to bring us and others closer to His will and for Him to be known by more people. In fact, to end a prayer in “In Jesus’ name, amen” is supposed to mean that we are asking those things we prayed about for the sake of His name rather than our own (John 14:13).
If you want to pray so that you can ask God to give you something for your own sake, the only reason to pray is to ask Him to change your heart and have that thing you’re asking about become more about Him than about yourself. I think it’s okay for some things to not go our way at times. Let the football game be about fun and hard work… and let the traffic lights on your way into work late do what they normally do.
Here we are down here with a cat-like worldview– a direct result of being deceived by Satan that we can be on God’s level (and that cats make good pets). We go through our days casually ignoring God as we lick ourselves and bask in our favorite sun spots. It’s not dinner time yet, so there’s no need to go rub up against our Caretaker’s leg in an act of manipulative flattery.
And that, my friends, is why I have a dog.