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- Why is it that we see Christians all the time who think they are better than others?
- Why do we hear people say that they can’t be a Christian because they are so screwed up?
- Why is it that over and over again we find people in the Bible being used by God even though they are huge screw-ups?!
In Egypt, it had been easy to know what, and what not, to do. If you were a Hebrew and you did something wrong then an Egyptian overseer beat you until you stopped doing it! The only concern of the Pharaoh and the overseers he appointed was the production of his building projects. They had no concern for how the people lived as long as they got their work done and didn’t threaten his power.
But God wanted his people to do every thing in a very holy manner. He didn’t just care about how they worshiped him. He cared about how they did everything. And he cared about everyone. Once God got his people out of captivity under the Pharaoh’s rule in Egypt, he set about to change them through freedom under Moses’ guidance in the wilderness. They weren’t special because God had pulled them out of captivity. They would be special because they would become an entire nation of people living holy lives. To do that, they would have to abide by God’s laws.
Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. (Leviticus 19:2)
I will place my dwelling in your midst, and I shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be their slaves no more; I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect. (Leviticus 26:11-13)
There were rules for every part of their day to day lives. And then there were laws to make sure that the poor, the elderly, the widowed, the orphaned and the alien (or foreigner among them) were treated justly and not left out from either God’s love or the protection of their community. There were rules to ensure that even if someone lost all of their wealth and possessions and had to serve others, they could still not be sold into slavery again. In fact, God made a law that every seventh year would be called Jubilee, a special time when all debts between Israelites would be canceled and any who had become servants were allowed to go back to their own homes. God was not going to let his people use his blessings and favor only for themselves. They might find themselves living among other peoples who had very different ideas about how to live. But God would expect them to live a certain way no matter where they went or who they came into contact with.
When left to our own devices, us humans can come up with all kids of rules for living or for laws that benefit ourselves at the expense of others. And we are really good at justifying our actions. God knows this and so he sets a high standard for our behavior that goes far beyond just how we worship or interact with him. He extends this high standard into all of our relationships — from those inside of a family to among neighbors to strangers and even natives of other lands or those who don’t worship the same God. He doesn’t expect a high standard of living for us because we’re perfect — quite the opposite. He expects it because he is. If we follow his rules for our daily lives, and not our own desires, things will work out much better for everyone, not just ourselves.
Remember: living for God is more than following rules.
Holy living doesn’t end after we have attended worship, said our prayers and read our Bibles. It must permeate everything we do because, if it doesn’t, then we are very vulnerable to pride or selfishness seeping into our words and actions.
Think about one hour of a typical day for you when you are least likely to be thinking about God or how to be a good Christian (and no, it can’t be an hour when you’re asleep!) Is it when you’re getting up in the morning and getting ready for the day? Is it right after school or work? Is it when you are texting with friends and someone says something mean about someone and you laugh along with them? Consider how to do even those very basic things in a more holy way. What would that look or sound like? Ask God to be with you the next time you’re in your most ‘godless’ hour of the day.