There are several things that might make the Christian faith unique, but one of the most distinct differences is in the relationship. When you go out into the world and start interacting with people from other faiths, it is difficult to find the kind of intimacy that is described in the New Testament. Personally, I believe that part of the reason for this is that religion is often a product of mankind’s goals and ideals and people creates things that will give them advantages over other people.
Most manmade religions want God distant and inaccessible to their fellow followers. This allows individuals in positions of power to be arbiters of faith between God and other people. This power structure allows an elite few to hold sway over the masses. Much of the criticisms leveled at religions and faiths are about the abuses allowed by these power structures. When people without God observe a religion where a leader has all the authority and often abuses it, we shouldn’t be surprised that they find that distasteful.
These false religions rely on certain assumptions that make it easier to manipulate others. They might say that people can never know if God is pleased with them or the only way they can know is if the leader tells them that they are okay. Some religions intentional keep their holy books unavailable to the masses, so that the average follower is not encouraged to read and understand the teachings for themselves. There are cults that make the spoken word of one individual leader the ultimate authority, which allows that person unlimited ability to abuse their followers. Other religions like to keep everything purposefully vague and impossible to understand, except for perhaps a few “enlightened” ones.
Contrast that with the truths of the Christian Bible, where instead of putting barriers between God and mankind, God chose to remove the barriers. John 1:14 (NLT) says, “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” Paul expands on this in his letter to the Philippian Church:
Jesus Christ lived and walked among the human race. He, being in very nature God, lived a human life. He was born a baby, grew up and lived a life among fallen humans and dealt with all of the challenges life in a fallen world brings. He was fully human, with the pain and discomfort that you would expect that to imply. Probably more than what you can imagine now, as the world he came into was actually much more uncomfortable than the one we currently live in. This tells us that as history moved forward, God didn’t make it harder for us to get to know Him, instead He made it easier. He didn’t put additional barriers between us and Him, instead, God made it possible to remove all barriers. Paul talks about this in Romans:
In the Old Testament, Abraham is called a friend of God, but now we see that through the sacrifice of Christ’s death, we all can have a wonderful new relationship with God. We all are now able to be friends of God. That is really a staggering idea. God didn’t change. He is still holy. He is still perfect. He is still who He has always been, but now we are able to access Him as our friend. You and me are able to go to the Almighty, Most Powerful, Everlasting Father of the Universe and have intimacy with God.
This is a picture that does away with all of the incomplete pictures offered by man-made religions. We don’t need a priest, an imam or a guru to stand between us and God. Jesus Christ has made it possible for every person to approach Him as a friend. Right now, you should feel the freedom to talk to God personally and intimately, sharing your cares and concerns and very life with Him, just as you would with any dear friend. In fact, God is a better friend, the one who never breaks confidence, never fails you and never lets you down.
The Bible does make it clear that there are still roles for men and women to play in the Church and the Kingdom of God. God still appoints some to be “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers”. (Eph. 4:11) None of that takes away from the fact that anyone who accepts the message of salvation through Jesus Christ can become a friend of God, regardless of position, education, age or any other factor in their background. If you are a part of God’s Kingdom as His friend, you have all the capability to know God intimately and to see Him for who He really is.