When we think of church today, what do we think of? When we think of religion today, what comes to mind? Are we reflect on communion, baptism, or any of the sacraments, do these things resonate intellectually or do these terms bring up emotions like water from a fresh spring? Are these “things that we do” connected to our hearts, or do we just go through the motions of what the church has taught us to do or because of family traditions? Or, do we think on these things as they are represented by the Word of God? And do we know the Word of God well enough to be able to know the difference?
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“Jesus replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions’.” Mark 7:6-8
A lot of the issues today with Christianity is the church, and religion, and human traditions. This may be a hard pill to swallow for many churches and religious organizations, but many are drawn away from Word, and turn to the world, because of these human traditions. The fact is that people don’t turn away from the church and from God because of God’s Word. They may turn away from lack of understanding of the Word, but never from the God’s perfect Word. They may turn away because of feelings of judgement and condemnation. They may turn away because we as humans are imperfect and they try to hold us to the God standard of which we always fail, unlike God’s love and His Word. They may turn away because they are required to perform some tradition that no one has taken the time to fully explain to them, and it has not connected with their heart. And no one likes to be told what to do, myself included.
I see all the time people turning away from God because of human imposed traditions, judging God by our imperfect walk as Christians, and due to lack of understanding of God’s Word. The ironic thing is that when others see our faults and this turns them off to Christianity, I believe that is the Holy Spirit deep inside them telling them that “this cannot be of God.” And they are right, it is not God. Although we may try our best, we still fail. But what a disaster that others turn from God on our account. That is why it is so important for us to continue to perfect ourselves through God’s Word.
See even if others do not know God well yet, that doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit cannot help direct them. God reveals himself to everyone instinctively like we crave water – (See Romans 1:19-20). God reveals himself visually to everyone as well, just look at the sun and the moon and the stars, and earth and everyone and everything in it. All of Creation and nature’s design is certainly a reflection of God. (Also see Acts 1:8 – “to the ends of the earth.”)
Matthew 28:19-20 tells us that our role is to help spread the Word of God. And while it might seem like an enormous pressure on us to not mess up in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, the formula for success is very simple. We just need to direct others to God’s Word so they can get the Word directly from God. That is our best way to make sure that our imperfections, and our human traditions or watered down interpretations of the Word does not get in the way of God’s message. It’s not like we water down God’s Word deliberately. It just happens naturally over time and as the Word is shared from person to person. It’s like the game where you have a group of people and you share a sentenced with someone by whispering it into their ear. They in turn have to whisper the same thing to the person beside them, and it goes around the room. By the time the last person gets the sentence, it is far from the original one. Words get lost through translation and it is not on purpose.
So while we can and should seek context and deeper understanding through biblical scholars who have come before us, it is so important for us to lean on the Word of God. Let us direct others to God’s Word. And while there are a lot of good books, and podcasts, and other sources of spiritual nourishment, let’s make sure that we practice what we preach and stay connected to the Word through daily reading. And just like yesterday, today, and tomorrow, let the Word wash us clean and make us new, in Jesus mighty name.
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for giving us your Word. Help us to bring others to You, and to direct them to You and the study of Your Word. Help us to separate human tradition from your Word. Thank you for guiding us, and directing us, and protecting us, until we come home to You. We give all honor and glory to You, and receive all of your goodness and mercy, in Jesus mighty name, Amen.
Today’s full reading: Numbers 21-23; Mark 6,7
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