When You Need A Do-Over in Obeying God
Thin with a stubbly beard, hair carefully combed, the man in front of me had a box of store brand saltine crackers and two dented, reduced price cans of food. He looked like he could use so much more.
Buy his groceries for him.
The thought popped in my mind before he even put his groceries on the counter. I looked in my wallet and had a few dollars cash. Certainly enough to buy his groceries easily by just reaching out my hand. Should I buy him more? Should I take him shopping?
Just buy his groceries for him.
I hesitated. What if he got annoyed? Insulted? I didn’t want to embarrass him or myself.
Buy his groceries for him.
I didn’t do it. In a desire not to grieve this man, I grieved the Holy Spirit. I could feel it immediately as he walked away with his purchase.
For all my desire to walk in grace, to practice what I profess, to follow and obey God, for all my words here, I didn’t do it.
I know what it is to ask your child to do something and watch him disobey. Sometimes there is discipline. Sometimes there is a hug. Sometimes there is both. As a parent, I try to discern what is needed most in the moment to teach the child that love is unconditional, but there are reasons I’ve asked him to do things, at times reasons he can’t understand, and I need him to obey—for me and for him.
We teach so many things in church. I talk of so many things here. Prayer, forgiveness, study, community, but I still feel the ache that we are missing something big.
Is it obedience? Is it discipleship? Is it silence?
We get caught up in our rituals. We don’t call them that, but let’s be honest, that’s what they are. Our raising or not raising of our hands in worship. Our contemporary songs or our hymns that we sing. Our offering plate in the back or the passing of the plate for tithes. Our weekly, monthly, quarterly, or whenever-ly communion with its grape juice or wine and its bread or crackers that is passed around or taken by walking up to the front, back, middle of the church. Our service that involves a laid back “there’s no order here” feel or a formal, solidly ordered feel. Our holidays, our calendars, our preaching through books of the Bible, our teaching through the lectionary. Our rules on what to eat, drink, do, and think. You may say we don’t have those, but don’t we? They are not always articulated. Sometimes we just pick up on what is acceptable through what our church culture is saying and not saying. It’s not always bad thing to have rules, nor is it always good.
Yet, I ache feeling that we are missing something big.
Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days—these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ! Let no one who delights in false humility and the worship of angels pass judgment on you. That person goes on at great lengths about what he has supposedly seen, but he is puffed up with empty notions by his fleshly mind. He has not held fast to the head from whom the whole body, supported and knit together through its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.
“If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world, why do you submit to them as though you lived in the world? “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” These are all destined to perish with use, founded as they are on human commands and teachings. Even though they have the appearance of wisdom with their self-imposed worship and humility achieved by an unsparing treatment of the body—a wisdom with no true value—they in reality result in fleshly indulgence.” Colossians 2:16-23, NET
My rules have become a fleshly indulgence. It’s so true. Of course it’s true; it’s in the Bible. But, it became more real for me today: Do not make a scene. Stay back and quiet as a Christian. Don’t pay for that man’s food because it could cause a stir.
When did I trade the truth of God for the lie that being unobtrusive made me godly?
Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him. So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. You also lived your lives in this way at one time, when you used to live among them. But now, put off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it. Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others. And to all these virtues add love, which is the perfect bond. Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:1-17, NET.
I love the church. I do. It’s so beautiful in all its forms and brings such glory to God. But, what are we missing that so many of us aren’t living the bold, loving life that Paul describes?
Forgive me, Father, for my focus on my flesh rather than on things above.
Forgive me, beloved ones, for my failure to practice what I profess.
Walk with me, Father, as I get up and try again.
Walk with me, beloved ones, as we shake off this moment and go forth.