Balancing Out Wayne Jacobson's Teaching
Wayne Jacobsen (publisher of “The Shack”) has some very good material on lifestream.com. He makes some very valuable points. Here I would like to offer some counterbalance.
Throughout his material runs the theme that “religion” is what gets us off-track from living in the pure and simple love of God. It’s not “religion” that gets us off-track – it’s the flesh. “Religion” is just one manifestation of the flesh—there are many others. If you focus exclusively on “religion,” then you will get blindsided by something else, like indolence, carelessness, or self-will.
Wayne stresses that the Christian life should be “relaxed into”. There's a lot of truth to what he says. However, this "relaxing" must be placed in proper perspective. We may compare the Christian life to learning to play a musical instrument. There are (at least) two wrong ways to go about practicing an instrument. The first is to just play when you feel like it—then you may enjoy playing somewhat, but you’ll never amount to anything but a dilettante. The other is to get so wrapped up in perfecting your technique that you play like a machine. For such a person, “just relax and feel the music” is the right message. But for someone who isn’t practicing, ‘just relax’ is the wrong message.
“Relax” is the right message for Wayne and many others who have undergone years of neurotic religious practice. But for others, it’s not what they need to hear.
Hebrews 4:11 expresses a deep spiritual paradox -- “Let us labor to enter that rest.” Here Labor and rest are wrapped up in the same sentence. There has to be a dynamic balance between the two. The "labor" is in obsessive-compulsively desiring the presence of God. The "rest" is in trusting God to Him to work in you, to breathe life into you, to motivate and strengthen and move you so that all your actions are the outworkings of His Spirit.
Wayne Jacobsen compares our relationship with the Father with his own relationship with his granddaughter. He uses this analogy to make the point that developing a relationship with God is more up to the Father than it is up to us. But this analogy has limitations. Jesus calls us friends, not grandchildren. I think there is more mutuality in the relationship than the grandfather/granddaughter analogy suggests. We need to invest energy into building relationships with friends (and spouses) – so also we need to invest in getting to know our Spouse. But just as with our human relationships, it’s more about responding rather than initiating.
It's interesting that spiritually, Wayne seems to have followed the same trajectory that many adults do in their family lives. At one time he was a “parent” (i.e. conventional pastor), and now he has become a “grandparent” (actually, a kind of evangelist). Parents often tend to be too strict, while grandparents are often too indulgent.