I see a disturbing trend in churches. One I’ve gotten caught up in at times also.
In an effort to make Christianity relevant pastors often take the Bible and turned it into kind of recipe book for successful living.
Nine steps to a better marriage. Five steps to further your career. Twelve steps to overcome any problem.
Yet, let’s think about this. On a given Sunday around the world there has to be say a million more steps given. Wow, I didn’t even get the six from last Sunday going yet.
I watched it reach its logical conclusion in a conference that was popular in the 1970’s. At huge arenas all over the country during a long weekend people meticulously plowed through a huge red binder. It was filled with formulas, all indexed, to successfully navigate any challenge and receive God’s blessing in the midst.
The only problem was it left me and a whole lot of others not feeling encouraged but in despair.
We now we had the secret recipe book but how could I possibly remember let alone follow all of these steps every moment of every day? And the underlying threat was to the degree you fall short God won’t bless your life as fully.
It’s what Jesus counter acted.
Jesus attended worship services at a synagogue one Sabbath. A man with a paralyzed hand was there and so some religious fundamentalists tried to trap Jesus. They asked him, “So is it legal to heal on the Sabbath?”
Jesus answered with a question, “If you have a sheep that falls into a pit on the Sabbath wouldn’t you pull it out so it didn’t die? So isn’t helping a person even more important?”*
They refused to answer him.
Jesus’ point was we enter into our relationship with God through his grace alone. And he blesses our lives out of his love not because we live out some recipe perfectly.
When I rested again in that relationship of love and grace I discovered amazingly God’s blessings even more.
His peace and joy, that I’d lost, returned. I’ll tell you, for me that was the greatest gift of all. And the gift that tells me when I’m back on the right path.
You might be thinking though, “With all that freedom won’t we go off the beam?”
Yeah, I do sometimes. Though frankly I can do that in the best of circumstances. But I’ve actually discovered more the opposite.
When I’m relaxing in God’s love and grace I feel more loving. That causes me to love others more freely because I start to forget about myself. And then I simply live out the directions God has given not to gain more blessings but because of the love filling me.
Oh, and also because I’m thankful for what he’s already given me.
Pretty cool I think.
And no I’m not even sure where the red binder ended up. I haven’t looked at it in 40 years.
We truly are free from religious laws. Free to live instead in love.
How have you discovered this?
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*Matthew 12: 9-12