Kent Bush: Life shouldn't be about checklists
Why do you do what you do?
Every day, you get up and go to work to earn a living. If you are anything like me, your boss has expectations. You have to be in the office a certain amount of time, and there are goals to be met.
But what if your boss came in Monday morning and told you that you no longer had to do anything? Your salary will stay the same. Your benefits aren't in jeopardy. All you have to do is what you want to do. What would that be?
Would my editorial staff still write the same stories and design the same pages? Would my ad staff still make sure the newspaper was profitable? Would I still stand on the chilly sidelines covering softball for eight hours while my sports editors are covering other events?
A tougher question might be, would there be anyone working the drive-through when I stopped to make my order? I hope my staff enjoys their work enough and have enough pride in their work to do almost everything they do now, and just as well. I'm sure there are some tasks that would go undone. There are unsavory parts of every job.
Consider that same scenario, only instead of work, think about church.
Many people spend their lives trying to complete a checklist. Some checklists only have boxes next to “attend Sunday-morning services” on Easter and Christmas. Other people have an elaborate checklist that includes any number of things trying to convince their friends, and maybe even themselves, how important religion is to them.
Both ends of that spectrum are unfortunate. Paul teaches very clearly that once we have been saved through a faith in Christ, then the heavy lifting is done. After that seminal moment, we can do nothing to make God love us more or less.
Christ isn't impressed with a perfect attendance pin from Sunday school or a blacked-out checklist of religious chores. The Bible teaches that our righteousness is like filthy rags to God.
So does that mean we should all plan on partying all night Saturday and sleeping in on Sunday while those legalistic suckers get up early for church?
I guess it means you could. But if that is what you want to do, it might paint a pretty accurate picture of where you are in your relationship with God.
In his letter to the church members in Galatia, Paul said, "You have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Galatians 5:13-14)
When you realize you are free to do anything you want, what do you want to do? That answer does a better job of diagnosing heart problems than any cardiologist could.
Those verses are sneaky, too. Paul put quotes around the one command that summarizes how Christians are to behave. He was quoting someone who knows a little something about being Christ-like: Jesus Christ himself.
Religious leaders didn't like Jesus because his existence meant everything they had studied and believed was changing before their eyes. No one liked change 2,000 years ago. If you want to see a similar reaction, try to pick out new carpet for you church's foyer.
So those religious leaders tried to trap Jesus into making a mistake they could use to discredit him. One day they asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
They were probably talking about the 10 Commandments. Jesus didn't bite.
He told them there were two great commandments, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength," and "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Apparently, the church in Galatia loved God with their heart, mind and strength. Equally apparent is that they did not love their neighbors as themselves. They were creating checklists of things people had to do to signify their belief in Christ.
One of those things happened to be circumcision. As a baby, circumcision isn't pleasant. Asking a grown man to endure it to prove his faith is a pretty significant request.
Like many things we try to do to impress God and our neighbors, it doesn't do any more to secure salvation than tinting the windows on your car. Jesus didn't die to give us holy checklists. He died to give us freedom.
The crux of the idea is, if we are followers of Jesus, we aren't legally bound not to drink, smoke, chew or go with girls that do. We are free to avoid the temptations that would hurt our families, our churches and us. We are free to learn everything about him. We are free to love others as ourselves.
It doesn't mean we are free to commit sin or skip church. That freedom lets you live a better life free from guilt and selfishness in a true pursuit of happiness.