Updated: Aug 23, 2021
For as long as I can remember we have always opened one present of Christmas Eve. As kids we always picked the biggest box to open, because we knew bigger is better. However, over time our parents got into the act and would take these giant empty boxes, put rocks in them to give them good weight, and then wrap them up. Christmas Eve would come and we would attack those boxes knowing this was going to be the best gift ever, only to find a pack of socks, or underwear.
Fast forward a few years and I now notice new things about my life. For example, we have the ability now to watch whatever we want, and the choices are limitless. Every channel streams their content, and we no longer have to wait till certain nights to watch most of it. Even with all these options, and the ease of use I find myself watching the same series over and over again. I probably know the lines better now than the actors do.
But this is who we are. We like to be comfortable, we like to be able to predict what is going to happen next. In fact, one of the techniques we use to treat anxiety disorders is to make sure we have well written and visual schedules so we know what to expect and when to expect it. Sure there are still people who are spontaneous, but even that can be planned. It seems we just like to know what we like and just stay in that comfort, like a warm blanket on a cold morning.
The biggest problem with this is the Bible. In Mark 7 Jesus is having a rather heated debate with the Pharisees and Sadducees. They ask Jesus why His disciples eat with their defiled hands, and why they do not walk in the traditions of the elders?
It seems like a reasonable question, even as we look over the past year and the pandemic. Washing our hands is a good thing, and we have probably washed them more times over this year than any other time in our lives. However, the hand washing question is not really the point here. The religious leaders were not concerned with the cleanliness of their hands, as much as they were concerned with “did they do everything by the book?”
Again, this is just who we are. We define these customs and traditions and then we place this ridiculous level of importance on them. Ask yourself this, the last time you talked to your parents, or a spouse, or a child on the phone did you end the conversation with saying something like “alright, love you too”? It kind of loses all its meaning when you say it so flippantly just as a goodbye doesn’t it, but most of us will end so many conversations with this word because we are so used to it.
It isn’t that saying "I love you" is a bad thing, the people in our lives should hear it, and know it. However, how much feeling are we invoking in others when the expected thing is to say it? At this point we are just going through the motions of life aren’t we?
Jesus responds to the religious leaders in Mark 7:6-7 by quoting Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
In other words, they are just going through the motions of relationship with Jesus. We still do it today. We show up to service, we shake hands, we sing songs, we listen to a message, we pack up , we go eat, and then most of those people we will not see for another week or two. We rate our ability to follow Jesus based on what sins we can stop ourselves from doing, and whenever we get the chance we “try and be a nice person”. We are trapped in our traditions, and honor God with our lips.
However, this is not the life Jesus calls His believers to live. We are meant to be intimately involved with a relationship with Jesus, and others. In John 13:34-35 Jesus tells us this, “ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Our lives should be marked by our ability to be there for brothers and sisters in Christ. To be in communication, to eat with, to laugh with, to cry with, to love with. How revolutionary would it be if we were so involved in others lives that when we showed up to service we didn’t even have to ask “Hey how are you”?
We can continue to live in our traditions, to walk through the motions and we will eventually die out. Or we can reform what it means to belong to a church, an “Eklesia”, a family of believers and we can really live life with each other. To join in others pain, and triumphs, to lock arms walk up to the gates of hell and kick them down.
The choice is ours, but just like I was fooled with a big box and heavy weight, so too can we be fooled by a church devoid of the power of relationship with Christ. Just going through the motions isn’t enough, it is time we look to the commandments of God, and stop playing with the commandments of men.