(Originally posted on WordPress: February 6, 2022)
Are you relational or religious? I'm sure most people would answer without giving it much thought that they are relational. And they should be. They were created by a relational God. When God created Adam, He created him for the purpose of relationship. God loves relationship and He loves to walk and talk with man. With God knowing all things and Adam being highly intelligent, I'm sure they had some wonderful conversations. I can only imagine the kind of things they talked about. Maybe they talked about the mysteries of the universe, or had deep philosophical conversations about life and what it's all about. Maybe they talked about the absoluteness of truth. I would love to have been in on a conversation about light. I mean, what is it really and where does it come from? It doesn't necessarily come from the sun because light was created on the first day, while the sun wasn't created until the third day. So what is this phenomenon called light? The definition of light is "the energy producing a sensation of brightness that makes seeing possible." Okaaaay...sooooo, what is that energy, where does it eminate from? I just believe God and Adam had some amazing conversations. And futhermore, I can imagine that they were each thrilled by the conversations; God - because He had a relationship with someone like Him whom He was able to fellowship with; Adam - because he could learn from God, His creator and friend, who knew everything! He could just be free with God...no fear, no condemnation, nothing to hide or keep from God, just open and honest relationship. Remember, he was naked and was not ashamed.
But also notice, that God, in all His wisdom, realized that it was not good for Adam to be alone. Man was made in the image and after the likeness of God. God breathed His breath into man. Seeing how God is relational, it only makes sense that man would be relational, also. So God desired to give Adam companionship. Since none of the animals were suitable, God made a woman from out of man. Adam now had someone like him to be in relationship with. He had someone to interact with daily, throughout the day. They both would have DAILY ENCOUNTERS WITH GOD every evening, in the cool of the day, and share with God all they learned that day about His creations and about each other. And notice, once again, that they were naked and not ashamed to be in each other's presence or the presence of God.
But then Adam and Eve sins. Their relationship with God is broken. All of a sudden, they see things differently, they see each other differently. They notice their nakedness and are now ashamed of it. They try to cover up, no longer wanting to be truly and fully seen by each other, and definitely not wanting to be seen by God. So when God shows up for His evening conversation with them, instead of running to meet Him as they probably did everyday before, they run and hide themselves from Him, ashamed and fearful. They begin to pass judgement on each other, condenming each other, pointing the finger of blame at each other. So not only is the vertical relationship with God broken, the horizontal relationship with each other is strained and damaged.
In spite of Adam's disobedience, God yet longed to re-establish relationship with man. He desired to have fellowship and communion with us again. But there was a major problem...sin. Sin separated us from God and no matter how much God longed for relationship with us or how much we needed relationship with Him, the gulf between us was too great. So therefore, God put into place His plan for reconciliation. It had already been determined that Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, would wrap Himself in flesh and pay the ultimate price for sin, but it could not happen until the fullness of time. So in the meantime, God established laws to help guide and govern man in relation to the holiness of God and what He required for righteousness. However, because of the sin issue, man was not able to keep the law. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't keep the law... not in his flesh. It wasn't until Jesus came that we had any hope of keeping the law, for He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill the Law.
What happened through the years and down through the annals of time is that man begin to use these laws as a measuring stick of how righteous they were. The more laws they kept, the more righteous they were. The more scripture they knew by heart, the more they were in good standing with God. And that's okay, until it became more important to them to keep laws instead of loving people. These laws and religious ceremonies and rites started to become a stench to God when people were more concerned with keeping them than they were with tending to the needs of the less fortunate. Jesus actually considered those who were most devout in keeping the law to the letter, the Pharisees, as being hard of heart and stubborn. He also goes on record for calling them vipers and serpents. Why? Because, regardless of how much law they knew and how many rules they kept, they lacked love, they lacked compassion. They would rather a person continued to suffer than be healed, simply because they were more concerned with keeping the law of the sabbath. In Mark 3, we see were Jesus healed the man with the shriveled up hand, in spite of the fact that the Pharisees were present and thought it was against the law to do anything, even to heal, on the Sabbath. They were more concerned with the letter of the law than the heart of the law.
You see, when God gave laws to His people, He didn't do it to bind them and cause them to be in bondage to the law. He gave the laws as a guideline for teaching them how to be in relationship with Him and with their fellow man. So when Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders of His day and they ask Him what is the greatest commandment, Jesus responds by telling them to love God and love people. The whole of the law hangs off of Jesus' statement. If you take a look at the Ten Commandments given by God through Moses, you will notice that the first four commandments are all about our relationship with God! They show us how to properly love God by valuing Him above all other Gods, valuing Him above humanity and nature, keeping our thoughts and impulses pure toward Him and, valuing Him with our time and priorities. The remaining six laws are all about our relationship with others. They actually help to preserve those relationships by valuing others and relating to them in light of that value. We are taught to honor our parents, value another person's life by not taking it, valuing their possessions, valuing their relationships and maintaining respect. Of course, God had to speak to them in terms of "do's and don'ts" because the children of Israel were incapable of real transformation through the law because there was no provision made for redemption yet. That's why Jesus came...to be the sacrifice that would make redemption possible.
So we see that Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to do away with it. But Jesus shifts the emphasis from being on the law and the rules, and He puts the emphasis on proper relationships. Jesus is more concerned in Mark 3 about being relational, not religious! Too often, we allow our "desire to be seen and perceived as righteous and holy" to blind us and block us from being relational and loving people the way God wants us to love. We will start to project on others our own self-made rules and try to make people fit into our own molds of what we perceive to be right. I will venture to say that we have caused many people serious hurt and to have self-esteem issues because of our own man made rules and religious requirements that have nothing to do with God's law of love.
We are to love God. And if we really love Him as we should, that love will be reflected in how we love people...and not just the people we like, but all people. We can become so caught up in living a certain way and condemning certain people and their lifestyles because that's the rule... that's the way we believe we are supposed to think because of religious rules and regulations. It if we continually live by those rules and regulations, then who will take the love of God to the world. We must look past the rules and see the relationship. People need The Lord and The Lord relies upon us to spread His Word to people. How can they hear without a preacher?
That in no way means that we have to be constantly preaching the Gospel to people. There is a time for that, but I believe that the greatest way to witness for Christ is with a life that shines with the light of God's Word. We exemplify His love by living it out daily, by establishing and building relationships, by being relational in our dealings and interactions with people. By loving God and loving others, we fulfill God's law.
Now, because Christ completed the work of the cross at Calvary, we are able to go beyond the "do-ing" of the law and live in the "be-ing" of the law. Because Christ fulfills the law, and Christ is made alive in us, we are no longer bound by the law to works, but we are free to fulfill the law in love. Now we can come boldly before God's throne of grace and find mercy in our time of need. We once again have direct access to the Father. We are once again restored to relationship with God which enables us to live in freedom.
Everything God has done for us (through Jesus) was motivated by His love for us.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:4-5a)
He has already given us everything we need in life to please Him.
Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! (2 Peter 1:3 MSG)
He made these provisions for us so that we could have relationship and fellowship with Him. God wants relationship, not religiosity. He wants us to want to please Him because we love Him. He doesn't want us to be bound by the letter of the law, but to be freed by the Spirit of the law. Allow the love of God to permeate your life so that you can love Him and love others, which in turn will cause you to fulfill the greatest of commandments, upon which all the other laws hang upon... LOVE!