I once worked at a place where you had to wear a dress shirt and a tie every day. There was a guy who didn’t like the rule. He would try to show up without a tie. He was told that each time he showed up without one, he’d be sent home to get one and would be docked that time on his check. Instead of simply complying, he decided to dig his feet in. He showed up the next time in a clown tie. It was extra wide and short. When confronted, he said that the rules simply said he had to wear a tie, and this was a tie. I refer to this behavior as compliant disobedience. He’s following the rules while being disobedient in the process. It was an outward expression of his internal attitude.
The book of Jonah tells a similar story. God asked Jonah to go to Nineveh to pronounce judgment on it. Instead of complying, he went the opposite direction in a ship. The Lord caused a great storm to rock the boat, Jonah was found to be the problem and they tossed him overboard. The Bible says the Lord prepared a great fish to come swallow him and return him to shore. The Lord told him the same instructions. He obeyed, but still had disobedience in his heart. When Nineveh repented, God forgave them. Once again his disobedient attitude showed through. God tried to get through to him, but we don’t really know how the story ends. The book stops with God having the last word.
How is your attitude toward what God has asked you to do? 2 John 1;6 says, “And this is love: that we walk in accordance with His commandments and are guided continually by His precepts. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should [always] walk in love” (AMP). God isn’t looking for compliant disobedience. He’s looking for you to obey out of love for Him. Our attitudes show up in our behaviors, but even still God always looks at the intent of our heart. Don’t be like Jonah or the tie guy. Trust God’s plan, be thankful He’s wanting to use you and obey while walking in love. He’s not done writing your story yet. How it’s written depends on your obedience.
I was at a celebration of my aunt and uncle when a lady walked up to me. She said, “You don’t know me, but I know you. I grew up in your grandfather’s church.” She shared some stories with me about him, and then she said, “He gave that church a foundation of love.” That phrase resonated with me for many reasons. I couldn’t help but think of how you and I are the Church. It’s important that we build our faith and our lives on a foundation of God’s love. If we don’t do that, our lives can become full of meaningless rituals or a cold relationship with God. When that happens we must return to our first love.
In Luke 7:36-47, Jesus was dining at a Pharisee’s house. A lady who was a prostitute came in, bowed at Jesus’ feet, cried tears on His feet, then dried them with her hair and poured perfume on them. The Pharisee was stunned that Jesus allowed this to happen. Jesus told him a parable of two men who owed a debt to someone. One owed a little and the other a lot. The creditor forgave them both. Jesus then asked the Pharisee which person loved the creditor more. He replied that the one who was forgiven more. Jesus agreed. He then looked down at the lady and told the Pharisee that her many sins had been forgiven and this was a display of her love.
In Ephesians 3:19 Paul concluded a prayer by saying, “And [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself]” (AMP). You and I can’t just have a head knowledge of God. We must experience His love and forgiveness in our lives. When we do that, we will experience God’s presence and be filled with it. When we have the foundation of His love in our lives, we can make a greater impact on the people around us.
I grew up hearing my dad jokingly say, “Do as I say, not as I do!” I didn’t understand it as a kid, but as a parent now, I definitely do. It’s funny how the one thing you don’t want them to repeat or do is the one thing they seem to pick up on. The good news is that they pick up your good habits as well. They’re just not as noticeable sometimes because they’re not embarrassing. I love that every trash day my son offers to take our next door neighbor’s trash can to her house. At church, he wants to open the door as people exit. He watches our behaviors and then mimics them. It makes us proud as parents when our kids do the right thing, show kindness to others and make us look good as parents doesn’t it?
Sometimes we forget that you and I are children of God and our actions reflect on Him. Galatians 5 gives us the Fruit of the Spirit that we are to exhibit in our lives. When we spend time with God and learn from Him, our lives reflect the qualities He has. The great news for us is that it’s already in our DNA. Genesis tells us that we are made in His image. Just like a child naturally does things that their parents do, so too we do things naturally that God has put in us. There are times though that our sinful nature takes over and wants us to behave opposite of the way God wants us too. That’s why it’s important to choose ahead of time how we will react to things, know what we will say and choose our attitude daily to reflect the love of God.
Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that” (MSG). One of the greatest ways we can reflect our Heavenly Father on this earth is to start loving others the way He does. The verse, “God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8 NASB),” comes to mind. We need to love others extravagantly whether or not we think they deserve it. The world will know us by our love in action. Don’t hold back. Give God’s love out like you’re made of it, because you are.
Part of my personality type is that I do really well with a to-do list. If I don’t have one, I tend to live my life jumping from one squeaky wheel to the next. The problem with that is that I can find myself living crisis to crisis, but never do the day to day things that need to get done. Another problem on the other side of the coin is that I can reduce Christianity and my faith to a series of to-do lists. Read my Bible daily – check. Spend time in prayer – check. Give my tithe – check. It can easily become very sterile or even about my works when I do that. So when I read Micah 6:8, in my head, I create a check list of things to do so that i make sure I’m doing what God requires of me.
That verse says, “No, the Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God” (GNT). If we dig deeper than the surface on these, they are more than things you can easily check off of a box. These are a way of living that flows out of a forgiven heart. I can’t just give justice according to man’s laws and ways. We must treat people and protect them according to God’s ways. To show constant love to others is nearly impossible in my own strength and selfishness. It flows out of a heart that has been shown what true love is from the One who is love itself.
All three of these really hinge on the last one. We must walk in humble fellowship with God if we are going to live out the other two correctly. Fellowship with God cannot be checked off a box as a duty. We’ve all had people in our lives that we were forced to be friends with. Love doesn’t grow in that type of relationship. When we learn to make our relationship with God less about us and our needs and focus on Him, we’ll have that fellowship that heals our brokenness instead of feeding it. These three things that God requires are not about us (which should remove the to-do list). They are about others and their needs. When we begin to live life for Him, it becomes less about us and more about seeking justice for others and showing the love and compassion He has for the world. Look around today and see the people He’s placed around you that need justice and love. Ask Him to use you to in their lives and to help you put down the to-do list.