Fake Trees and Fake Religion

    A few weeks ago, my wife sent me this photo.  I immediately began laughing because I could sympathize with it’s owner.  The photo is of a fake tree. Now why would someone in a fairly decent neighborhood go to the trouble to buy or build a fake tree? It is quite simple.  H.O.A. You see, our Homeowners Association requires every house to have 6 inches of tree trunk in their yard.  This means you can have one 6 inch diameter tree or 3 two inch diameter trees.  I’ve considered getting 24 quarter inch diameter trees just to frustrate the HOA, but I digress.
     What made me laugh about this photo is that we all recognize trees are very good for a neighborhood.  Trees are pretty. Everyone wants trees around.  Sometimes trees take time.  In my case, we bought our house with no trees.  The previous owner had tried to grow a tree and it died.  I later discovered that there is a large slab of concrete that the builder apparently buried in our front yard that makes it harder to grow a tree. So I have struggled to meet the demands of the HOA despite the fact I really want to.  In fact, We have planted other trees that did not make it.  
     You can imagine my smile when I found out someone was trying to sneak past the HOA tree rule.  At first glance, it may even pass for a real tree.  Now there are many questions that come up when considering how many things have to happen before you go the “fake tree in the front yard” route.  Did they try to plant several trees that died?  Perhaps they are saving up to buy a tree but can’t afford it yet.  Perhaps some inconsiderate home builder buried a huge slab of concrete in their yard rather than hauling it off like they are supposed to.  My guess is that the HOA never asked and doesn’t care.  
This is a prime example of rules over relationship.
    Sometimes it is just easier to make a rule and say “follow” rather than pursue a relationship to truly love and understand our neighbors. At Connection Point, our core value is “Relationship over Religion”.  To be sure, not all religion is bad.  James (Jesus’ brother) tells us that “true religion is to take care of the orphans and widows and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”  Those three things are great things!  The reason this is our core priority, however, is because most of time when we think of religion, we think of rules.  Rules that were once based on a sincere love of God; a sincere relationship.  Over time, that relationship turned into a list of “do this” or “do that” if you really love God. Eventually, religion ends up with all the work of a relationship, but none of the mercy, grace, or love.  The heart of our church is that before you ever serve or do anything for God, you understand what He wants most– you!  He simply wants a relationship with you!  
God is not an HOA.  He is a creator who wants to know His creation! He is a father who wants to know His children!