Friday, September 08, 2006

Annoyed by religion!

I'm not talking about your neighbor here; I'm talking about God. Today's reading from Isaiah 1 includes this:
"The multitude of your sacrifices --
what are they to me?" says the Lord
"I have more than enough of your burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me ....
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers,
I will not listen.
from Isaiah 1.11-15
He goes on, but you get the picture. He doesn't like their sacrifices, offerings, incense, prayer. What's the deal?

It's this. They're playing at religion instead of doing good.
Your hands are full of blood;
wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!
Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.
from Isaiah 1.15-17
The danger of religion, whether in the days of the prophet Isaiah, the times of Jesus Christ in the 1st century, or today, is that the deliverables and the measures, the practices and the tasks, capture our attention and distract us from what God really cares about.

Of course this doesn't mean that prayer is bad -- nor is going to church, putting money into the plate, reading the Bible daily, or whatever. The way we get into trouble is by doing those things while at the same time doing evil and neglecting God.

So this is something that I have to watch out for. I think I used to do this kind of thing more when I was younger, but I'm not immune to it today. With me it's not so much overtly religious things, but I like to be seen as carrying out my responsibilities. But to most people, it's more important that I treat them with kindness and respect. Whether I think I've done what I think is my "duty"... isn't important to them, or to God.

What's that about? Well, what it is for me is that I'm still not fully transformed, fully mature. There's still a part of me that's looking for validation, for approval, based on accomplishment -- which is dumb if not exactly rare.

What to do? Call upon the Lord I think, and ask him to continue that transformation. To help me grow into the man he wants me to be.

posted 9:55pm Sept 9 Japan time

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