Word for Today – Amos 5:21

I Despise Your Festivals

One of the most profound things about Christianity is the thing many people miss . . . relationship! It took me years to figure out Jesus is about relationship and not so much about religion.

” I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies” (Amos 5:21 NRSV).

But wait, you may ask, isn’t church a solemn assembly that Christians attend every Sunday morning and sometimes even on Wednesday evening? Isn’t it unchristian not to celebrate Christmas and Easter? What about personal quiet time or our scheduled prayer time? Shona, are you telling me that God does not like those things?

Well, even though I am not a theologian, I would have to answer, yes, there are times when God probably doesn’t like your efforts in those areas. He says so right here in His own words recorded in Amos, so I think it’s important to consider God’s perspective. He wants relationship at the top of your spiritual “to-do” list.

We see the same desire when Jesus addressed the Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew. He called these religious leaders a brood of vipers and told them to bear “‘fruit worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:7-8 NRSV), because they were more worried about their rituals than the conditions of their hearts and their conduct toward others.

Matthew 23:23 also speaks to the divine perspective on this matter:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law; justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

I cannot speak for God, but what I know about Him, I don’t think God minds the festivals and solemn assemblies attended on His behalf especially since he created many of them. However, when these rituals become more important than doing the right thing, treating others well, and relationship over Jesus, we are neglecting the heart of what God is all about, relationship and loving people. A conversation in Matthew 22 between Jesus and a lawyer spells it out nicely:

“‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘ You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (vs36-40).

This topic makes me pause and evaluate my own Christian walk. Do I do things for God and neglect justice, mercy, and faith? I have to answer, yes and no.¬† I do my best to do right by others, but there is always room for improvement. I am usually merciful, but watch out customer service person on the phone in India when I don’t think I’m getting product justice, and I cannot understand¬† a word you say. Mercy gets elusive in my heart under those conditions. Faith? Well, some days my faith is stronger than others.

I guess the big question is, do we have a genuine and godly attitude in our hearts and do those attributes shine bright on the outside? The right inward attitudes expressed outwardly are far more important to God that just showing up at a festival with our hearts full of ourselves and our actions displaying pomp and circumstance.

Word for Today: I despise your festivals, because I want your hearts.

 

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This entry was posted on Sunday, May 1st, 2011 at 9:07 pm and is filed under Amos, Word for the Day. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

 

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