Author’s Note: I have to admit, this month’s church newsletter was inspired by real events. Sometimes these things just write themselves.
Sometimes it’s hard not to compare ourselves to others in church, especially when it feels as though practicing our faith has become a competition. When we try to outdo each other with the number of events we attend, how much money we give, or the ways in which we participate during a service, we take the emphasis off of God’s glory and put it on our own selfishness. Our need to set rules and boundaries puts us on a path where we judge each other, and when we judge, we assume a power which is not ours to wield. The Bible is replete with people who wanted to know exactly how to apply the religious laws, as if strict adherence to man-made rules was the only route to salvation. Peter asked for the exact number of times one should be forgiven, while a rich young man asked what more he needed to do to attain the kingdom of heaven since he already kept all of the commandments; even the Pharisees tried to use the law to trap Jesus when they confronted him about the nature of his authority or about the illegality of his actions when he ate with sinners or cured the ill on the Sabbath. As Jesus reminded them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27 KJV) God’s day was meant to bring His glory to all people, not to be a burden weighed down by goals that seem unattainable or make us feel like failures. The true measure of faith was not determined by how much money you gave at the Temple or how many animals you sacrificed. Instead, Jesus taught “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40 KJV). Laws and rules which are made by man are imperfect and lead to judgment and discord, but the laws of God bring His glory to the world. When we live by the Great Commandment, we are the radiant light of God in a universe that is darkened by human sin and evil. We are meant to use the gifts given to us through God’s grace as we can, if your gift “is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”(Romans 12:6-8) When we do this, regardless of what others think about how we live our faith, we will receive the full measure of God’s mercy and a seat at His table in the kingdom yet to come.