Read: Hosea 6:1-9:17, 3 John 1:1-14, Psalm 126:1-6, Proverbs 29:12-14
I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)
Relate: It’s the late 1920’s and a bad man, a really bad man, is having a crisis of conscience. Things haven’t gone well for him, he’s just seen some friends die, and now the shock, the frustration, the guilt bring him into an empty church. He takes a seat three or four rows from the front and sits down in a pew. After making the sign of the cross he folds his hands to pray:
“I just need to get this said. With all due respect, You put me down in this scheme. I didn’t ask for that, not even a handshake. Make me want things, things I can see, that I can almost touch, then You take them away. Not for me, right? Everyone else, but not me. I’m what, a mistake You made, like some leftovers. And I’m supposed to go through life, no friendship, no love till I’m pissin in my bed, coughing up blood in the sheets. Then I’ll know, right? Then it’ll all be clear? Put it in front of me, take it away. Why would You do that? Just to screw with me? What kind of sick [jerk] thinks that way? I’m supposed to trust You. Based on the treatment so far, what are You up to, huh? I’m here. I’m listening. I’m ready for any kind of explanation.”
From the back of the church he hears a voice:
“Are you all right?”
The man looks over his shoulder to see a priest walking over towards him:
The priest has an excellent opportunity to make an impact here. This man is at a point in his life where he is ripe for a change. He is ready for a new start. The priest responds:
“You’re yelling, please keep it down. This is a church.”
React: True, this is just a fictional scene from the TV show Boardwalk Empire. But the reason I was able to remember it, the reason it was even written into the script, is because it resonates with truth. How many times has my desire to be religious caused me to miss an opportunity to show God’s love. The cliche’ is said time and again, “I don’t have religion, I have a relationship”, but what the speaker is usually saying is, “my religion is not the traditions you normally expect.”
According to James, true religion is to live holy and care for those in need (namely, the widows and orphans). What would it look like if more of us got this kind of religion? What would it look like if we used our tithe to buy a Christmas dinner and presents for a neighbor’s family we know is in a tight spot? What would it look like if we stopped watching TBN and used our cable money to support missions? What would it look like if we offered up love rather than sacrifices?
God, I’ve missed far too many opportunities. I can look back on times in my life when I should have spoken up but didn’t, when I should have shut up but had to be right, when I should have shown love but failed. Forgive me for those times and help me to be more aware of the opportunities all around me. Please help me to never, ever use You as an excuse to not be You in the life of someone who needs to see You.