Relationship without Ritual

Real relationship with Jesus has nothing to do with rituals. I think I can say this confidently because I have found so much freedom lately in not being ritualistic with Jesus. It is ironic to me, but I have discovered as I have journeyed through the Old Testament that God is not ritualistic at all. I say this is ironic because at first glance, it appears that the Old Testament is all about rituals. We see God establishing laws and these laws are very detailed and specific. In all actuality, these laws are being established for one reason...God loves us. A person living under the "law of ritual" as I call it, lives under the perception that God is angry and that's why he created the law. I lived under this law for all of my life. As I began to explore the idea of God acting only out of love and always out of love, the less my "law of ritual" made sense.

God is holy. He is calling me to be holy. This is the part that I think can be a stumbling block for so many. In my human mind, it seems the only way to be holy (which I define as right, good, perfect) is to follow the laws set before me. The stumbling block in this, is when I forget that God is calling me to be holy but not through the law. He is calling me to be holy through the cross of Christ. I can be holy because I can be redeemed. It does make sense to me why so many of us fall into the trap of rituals and legalism. How can it be possible that this holy, righteous God would offer such imperfect people redemption at no cost? The answer is simple. God is love. I know I sound repetitious in saying that again but that truly must be the foundation of everything we believe about God. Everything God does comes from a desperate love for his and me.

I blogged a few weeks ago about my God box. I think this conversation about rituals and legalism is directly correlated to that little box. On my box was the label "God expects". I believed God's love was conditional and based on my performance. Rituals and legalism are what came from that idea. I so desperately wanted God's love and approval that I made it my mission not to break the rules so that he would be pleased with me. Of course the problem with this is that I am imperfect. So, every time I messed up I felt defeated, guilty, condemned. The very sad thing about this is that when we don't break away from this cycle, we become angry, proud and self seeking. Somewhere along the way, the ritual becomes about making ourselves look good and we forget about the holy God we are supposed to be serving.

The fascinating thing about God's gift of love is that it propels me to action. I follow his law because I am overwhelmed by his love for me and I want to be like him. I submit myself to his authority and choose to trust in his love for me. The difference in me now, is that I really do know that his love for me never ever changes. So, with a big sigh, I set out to do good knowing that this redemption Jesus gives me was never earned. Even on my best day, my heart is not perfect and it wont be until the day I stand beside Jesus in Heaven.

Jesus wants to live life with us. He wants to cry with us, laugh with us and rest with us. Did he not prove how unfailing his love is for us? Does the picture of the cross not declare to all humanity that God sees the heart of man and cherishes it. I pray that we not allow the enemy to deceive us and distract us from the simple truth that God is not looking for religion but he is looking for relationship. He is yearning for restoration. He offers us redemption.

 "How precious is your steadfast love O God! The children of men take refuge and put their trust under the shadow of your wings". Psalms 36:7


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