9/22/2016 Ricardo about 35
In a coffee shop conversation, Ricardo, about 35, told me how he had turned away from the liturgy-based church tradition he had grown up in, saying he just couldn't relate to God with memorized prayers written by others. Only recently has he turned back to God, only this time in a more personal relationship rather than what for him had been a meaningless ritual. But is it possible that he has swung too far in the opposite direction?
As we talked I found out that he has very little church involvement or Bible reading. His relationship with God is conducted on his own terms, not God's. His ideas about God showed lots of evidence of wishful thinking and self-centered beliefs, rather than the commands for obedience that can only come from God and his Word. Without the specifics of God's word as a guide, people like Ricardo are often content to follow Jesus' general command to "love your neighbor as yourself" without His specific commands on just how we should live that out in our lives.
In both Matthew and Mark, Jesus taught this command in response to a question about which command was most important, but he in no way excluded the rest. In Luke, Jesus followed the "Golden Rule" with the parable of the Good Samaritan, to show us just who our neighbor is. And in all three, this command is preceded with the command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Many people who want to love their neighbor on their own terms conveniently leave that out.
But what does it mean to love God with one's heart, soul, and mind? It means to be in relationship with God and our neighbor on His terms, not our own. God is our Creator, our King and our Father, and He is to be the center of our relationship with Him, not us. Jesus said "Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me."
We have his commands - they are right there in the Bible. But do they have us? Jesus is our Lord but He is also our Savior, and He even said "You are my friends if you do what I command". But He is not our "buddy" and He is not our servant. We exist to worship and serve Him, and that means learning and following his commands daily.
I talked with Ricardo a while about the importance of daily Bible reading. We need to prayerfully meditate on it, and allow God's truth to set the terms of our relationship with Him. It may seem a little ritualistic at times, like the liturgical practices Ricardo had run away from. But there is enough of God's Word to read and be refreshed and challenged daily for the rest of our lives, and it need never become a meaningless ritual.