I’m basically simple; I like simplicity in all forms, and spirituality is no different. I have always been uncomfortable with all of the “rules” of Christendom. Sometimes it seems as if there is a disconnect between what the church teaches and what the Bible says, and then we become bogged down in the mire of confusion as to what is from God and what is man’s opinion.
Take Micah 6:8, for example, “Human being, you have already been told what is good, what ADONAI demands of you – no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity (or blameless) with your God.” (The Complete Jewish Bible) Micah was one of the minor prophets, and like those before and after him, felt the call of God in his life to turn the hearts of his people back to God. He lived in a time not so much different than we live in today; crooked politicians and religious leaders, greed, and violence. Seems like little changes, doesn’t it? Was Micah successful in turning all of the hearts of his people back toward God? Not any more than anyone else has been down through the ages, but the point of his life and message, and others like him, is that he answered the call of God to warn people about turning from God and toward the evils of the world. Some listened and responded.
Micah’s message was simple: be just, love grace (kindness) and walk blamelessly with God. Can anyone be 100% just, kind, and blameless? Not a chance, but what we can do is to the best of our ability adhere to these principles and we will certainly be on the right track. To walk in love, grace and purity is a pretty tall order for everyone, so why do we need to add even higher standards? We don’t.
All too often we focus on fixing the ills of outward man. For instance, the colorful use of cuss words, smoking, drinking alcohol, tattoos, to name a few. Yeshua called the religious leaders of His day “whitewashed sepulchers”, in other words, tombs that were clean on the outside. Not much has changed. The religious of our day back up the Christian dump truck and bury those seeking relationship with God with myriad thou-shalt-not’s. In so doing, we are concerned with shining up the surface and ignoring the rot underneath. God is concerned with the heart of man; the motivations and intentions that guide or misguide his/her daily life. Does it really matter if we are covered in tattoos, lift a beer in toast while smoking a cigarette and peppering our conversations with colorful cuss words, while at the same time, those who consider themselves “Christlike” harbor hatred, and bitterness toward fellow man, gossiping under the guise of praying for another, or setting ourselves above others in pious judgment? We can cheat, steal, and lie and not blink an eye, but dare someone to tell us they frequent the local watering hole on Saturday nights without the white-washed uttering the requisite “tsk tsk” of hell bound sinner! Perhaps this sounds harsh, but the reality is no one is perfect, everyone is loved by God, and it is high time we embrace these truths. People are leaving churches, those outside are refusing to even give God a chance because pious pew-sitters demand perfection of those coming thru their doors seeking rest, healing, and compassion.
The message of the prophets, and of Yeshua as He walked the Judean countryside, was to bump our heart motivations up against God’s standards and act accordingly. The measuring stick of standards is the Ten Commandments and the sum of those commandments can be found in Micah 6:8 – do what is right.
It is my opinion we have “westernized” the Bible. Our understanding and interpretation of words and scriptures in the Bible are often inaccurate and narrow; the culture at the time any given scripture was written is not considered, and we interpret words based on our own definitions. Biblical Hebrew has a mere 8,000 words, whereas we have 100,000+. Having so few words it only stands to reason that there are layers of meanings to words. We have the mindset that God requires humanity to be perfect, or walk in obedience; in the case of Micah, to walk blameless. Blameless, obedience and other like words all have their origins in the Hebrew word “shema”. Shema means “to hear”. Hearing is much more than the physical act of sound waves being interpreted by the brain and fashioned into what we call “words”. Shema means the physical act of hearing, but also heeding the words, and responding to what is heard. In Hebrew, to hear is to do. Additionally, “shema” refers to moral innocence, or to integrity, so be be blameless before a Holy God is to live life with integrity. Humans screw up, we don’t always get it right, and we do not always make sound decisions that demonstrate our integrity, but God is merciful to forgive us when we recognize our lack of integrity and purpose to do a better job in the future.
We don’t all “hear” at the same time either. God journeys with each of us individually. We may technically hear, in other words, receive the sound waves for interpretation by the brain ten times, and then on the next go round, we hear with understanding and a call to action. This is the miracle of personal revelation! The light bulb moment! Epiphany! And at that moment the choice becomes ours to act on what has been heard, to respond, to return to a life of integrity.
The Bible says that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He hasn’t changed; His message is still one of love for His creation, a call to live a life of integrity, to do what is right, to correct our course if we have messed up. Act justly, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. You got this kiddo……