One of my sons works in the hospitality industry. He has a knack for remembering names and faces, as well as where he first met each individual. He has mentioned a few different times that some people who attend church should never let others know that they do, because the way they treat service workers gives Christianity a bad name. Ouch!
It’s been great material for discussing personal integrity, and being true to who we are no matter who we’re with. Our convictions should affect every area of our lives–church, home, work, play, and our wallet. If we say that we follow Christ, do we really follow him? Or are we just giving him lip service? Are we letting him lead us? Are we following in his footsteps, or are we trying to make it “on our own”? Do we know what He wants from us?
From the Old Testament to the new, our God is the same. His expectations of how his followers should behave haven’t changed.
“God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” (Numbers 23:19)
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)
So what is required of us if we are to live godly lives that don’t misrepresent our faith?
Through the prophet Hosea, God says, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) Our relationship with God and our relationships with others outweigh our religious observances and practices. Jesus accused the Pharisees and teachers of religious law of getting these things reversed: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law–justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” (Matthew 23:23)
In pleading with the people to return to the Lord, Micah says He doesn’t want sacrifices: “No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Doing what is right requires action. Do our actions line up with the character of God? Does the way we treat others line up with what God would view as “right” treatment? Do we view some people as more worthy of right treatment than others? I hope you remember this the next time your order comes out wrong at the local fast food place. Your response is your responsibility.
Loving mercy should prompt us to act in order to relieve the suffering of the lowly, needy, and miserable. Are there needs around you that you are equipped to meet? Volunteering to gently rock drug-addicted newborns at a local hospital is just one option that may be available to you.
Walking in humility with God does not mean that we only do so in the aisle of the church on Sunday. It means that wherever each day takes us, we submit to God in all that we say and do. That’s quite a tall order, for sure! God asks the people through Amos, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (Amos 3:3) Do we agree with God on the direction He is taking us? Or do we think we know a better way? Humility acknowledges our dependence on him for our everything, as well as our limited ability to know what’s best for us in the long run.
How can we sum this up? I think Jesus said it best: “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Love God, and love others. How will you put this into practice this week?