Whatever it is, we want it to work for us. It could be a car, a diet plan, a certain fashion style, or even a spouse. There’s a certain something we want accomplished or a certain feeling we want to experience and so we acquire people and things we think will get us what we want. We want these people and things to work for us, so we apply a formula to get them to function so that our desires are met. With a car, the formula is gas + key + acceleration + steering – idiocy = driving. With a diet plan the formula is exercise + protein + smaller portions – carbs – sugar = weight loss. But what if I start applying a formula to my wife (eye contact + flowers + regular diaper changes – socks with sandals = peace and love)? This might seem like a genius approach to some men, but my wife isn’t a Buick. She is a human with human characteristics and not only that, she is the person in this world I am to love the most. Furthermore, she has feelings and emotions, not spark plugs and brakes. Therefore, I must treat her differently than I would a machine. If I start applying a formula to my wife, she’ll catch on pretty quick that she’s being used as means to something else. We get in trouble when we start applying formulas to everything and everyone to get them to work for us.
I think the same is true of Christianity. We often think that Christianity will work for us if we simply apply the right formula: Bible reading + prayer + church – secular music = respect, success, friendship, parents who stop their nagging, a clear conscience (fill-in-the-blank). But the problem here is that Christianity isn’t just a religious system; it’s about a person: Jesus Christ. Paul said to the Corinthians about his previous visit to them, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:3). We must read our Bibles, pray and go to church, but all those things are simply channels through which we access Jesus. They are things through which we relate to our Savior. It is dangerous to begin thinking that we can get Christianity to “work for us” to other ends outside of Jesus because Christianity is about Jesus, and Jesus is a person, not a power tool. But he’s not just any person. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords who we serve as his loyal subjects, and we dare not reverse the roles by thinking we can get Him to serve us the way we want to be served by simply crafting the right formula.