How I was Freed from Religious Slavery

By Chris Hammond

Upon meeting Jesus, face to face in 2006, my entire life took a dramatic turn from the direction I was headed. I had encountered a very real Love in the tenderly affectionate, powerfully authoritative voice of my Beloved. I had spent my entire life, up to that point, with a schizophrenic view of God. I had no grid for a God who could love me simply because he loves me and not based on my performance. It was this Beautiful Lover of my soul who delivered me from a life filled with death, depression, suicidal thoughts, extreme anxiety, and a downright desperation for something more in life. Immediately, I began to see people with such value that was beyond worth. No one had to tell me that Loving people was the “right” thing to do! I couldn’t help it! I saw priceless value, and any “choice” to love was ripped out of the picture! I didn’t have to make a decision to love anyone. I had become possessed by Love Himself, even though I had no intellectual grid for any of it.

It wasn’t until a couple months later that I began going to church. I was so excited to meet others who had experienced the same things I was experiencing, though I didn’t quite find what I was expecting. All I seemed to find was a lot of people who wanted to throw wet blankets over my brightly blazing, passionate heart.  It was there that I learned all about the rules that “God” demands we follow. It was in the institutional system called “Church” where I discovered that the God I was experiencing so intimately wasn’t the same god that these beautiful people were telling about. Needless to say, confusion began to get the best of me; then guilt, followed by a constant sense of condemnation and fear.

More than a few of my years were spent running around the hamster wheel of religion as these well-meaning religious friends of mine continued to show me that “God” doesn’t want me to be happy, but to work hard and do “spiritual” things. It was during this time that it was pounded into me that movies were a waste of time and any trace of alcohol was abhorrently evil. I was told that if I listen to music by people that weren’t “Christian” that my mind would be polluted with filth and I’d have to give an account to “god” about my life and he just might not let me into heaven when I die. It was disgustingly exhausting. I knew there had to be more to life than this!

I began to hear and see glimmers of hope – Christians who were actually happy and spoke fondly of God as “Daddy.”  They spoke of a God who rejoices in His children with great delight and desires that we have fun and enjoy life. This awakened my heart to remember the warmth of Papa’s  embrace that shattered my notions of God, in April of 2006. I began to search for this God that, in the depths of my heart, I knew must be better than I ever thought. I looked in books and in sermons. I looked in music and in movies. I looked in animals and the trees they call home. I began to see Him. I began to see the smile of my Papa. Then I dared to look in me. There He is! I found my Beloved! He has been here all along!

I found myself caught up in a place so deep within that it felt so far away. I saw Him! He was walking through space with no reason to fear or worry. He was Perfection Himself… and I was a cell in his Body. I was IN Him! My mind was blown! A month later I began to see even more depths to this reality. I saw my Beloved, hanging naked, bleeding on a splintered cross; but He was more than Himself. He was me. He was us! I was a cell in His Body! I was IN Him, dying in Christ! The entire human race, individually, each person, a cell in His Body! I then saw my Beloved placed in the tomb, and there I was – a cell in His Body! Then my Beloved was raised from the grave, victoriously conquering death, and there I was – a cell in His Body! I was co-crucified, co-buried, and co-raised with Him, seated at the right hand of God. It is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me! Yay! This is cataclysmic! This changes everything! This means I am innocent in His innocence! This means that I no longer can gauge my worth based on my own performance! This means that His worth has become my worth! I am – we are – innocent and free!

I have become a man, possessed – possessed by Love Himself. Death has no hold on me. Life has swallowed me up in triumphant celebration! My Life has become a Party! I am discovering that this life is not reserved for a “select few.” This Life is available to all! All who would dare to believe it, may experience the Bliss of Perfection! Innocence has been bestowed upon us forever! The foundation of the throne of God is established upon our innocence, as Francois du Toit has so eloquently stated. I have found that the key to overwhelming joy and satisfaction is the awareness of my childlike innocence in the eyes of my Papa, God! Haha! When I feel guilty, it is only because I have forcefully taken my life back from Him who has declared my innocence, and that I need to remember that I died with Him and was raised together with Him, shifting my focus away from my performance and back onto Papa’s intoxicating smile. Yay!

I have found that this changes the way I do life. It changes the way I interact with people – especially those who disagree with me. I have found that this awareness removes my ability to hate. It removes my ability to condemn. It fills me with no choice but to Love unconditionally as I realize that as Jesus is, so are we in this world. I have become overwhelmed with the beauty of innocence in the face of Mankind, as Papa originally intended! Yay! I am finding more and more that a person’s status no longer influences or impresses me, as I understand that in Papa’s eyes we are all the same. We are One with Him and with each other. We are free to Love, because we have become Love.

I recognize that when Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he reminded them that when he came to them, originally, he determined to see nothing in them each individually, except for the redeemed image and likeness of God that was brought about in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word – the “Logos” – or “logic” of God concerning Mankind. Jesus is the Blueprint, as it were, with which God designed Mankind. The word “among,” I have found, is also interchangeably translated as “in,” as in, “Christ IN you, the Hope of Glory.” Upon discovering this, I read it entirely differently than I used to! Paul was not saying that while he was with them , he thought of nothing except the death of Jesus, over and over and over again. It is so much more than that! He was determined to see nothing in them except the face of Jesus! This changes everything! When Paul met them, the Corinthians were Pagans who worshiped idols and did really strange things to pay homage to their gods; yet Paul did not see Pagan idolaters. He saw Jesus in the flesh, in people who had no idea who they were. When Paul spoke the their Truest Identity – Christ within – they were awakened and couldn’t help seeing Jesus for who He is, falling deeply in love with Him and each other! Love awakens Love!

I have seen this in action in my own interactions with those who have yet to discover the Beauty of Jesus in their own lives. I have been in bars and on the streets of downtown Austin, where the common ideas of God  are that of an angry judge or a distant bookkeeper, waiting to throw millions of “sinners” into a fiery pit with maniacal laughter. It is such a joy when I see people awaken, completely awestruck when they get their first glimpse into the heart of their Loving Papa, who has always been affectionately obsessed with their well-being. Perfect Love is ever so inviting! When we begin to see ourselves fully included in the life of God and absolutely intertwined with every other human being – our brothers and sisters – we will not be able to do anything but Love.

The Gospel has come to free us from the hamster wheel of religious activity and fill us with the awareness of our Papa’s delight. Upon the heart’s awakening, through the Good News of our innocence in Jesus, Love is no longer something we “do” – it has then simply become who we are.” The Goodness of God is inexhaustible and I am discovering more and more that the deeper I dare to go, the more possessed by this Beautiful Lover I become!

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