What does God want from us? This is an important question; one I fear we often get wrong. From the moment of my conversion three values were drilled into my head. Read your bible and pray daily, and spend time with God's people. All of this was considered essential for a healthy, personal spiritual life. In fact, even fellowship was often depicted as necessary for my own, personal spiritual good. In other words, it was more about me and less about community. I am convinced that many Christians mistakenly believe that these three activities, and the focus, make up the core of what God wants from us.
Don't get me wrong, the daily intake of Scripture and output of prayer is very important, as is fellowship. I am concerned that the average Christian feels guilty when he or she has skipped a day of personal bible study, but feels nothing is wrong when their salvation goes no further than their own experience of these three disciplines. Is this what God wants from us? Is this the core of God's plan for our lives?
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Micah 6:8.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
There they are - the values of God. We are much closer to the heart of God when these three values are on our hearts. I am not pitting spiritual disciplines against these values, but I am pitting the narrow, hyper-personalized approach to spirituality against what God desires for us. When Bible study, prayer and fellowship for the purpose of personal, spiritual strength are our greatest emphases we are missing the point. What God requires of us is not closet spirituality, but public spirituality.
God requires that we do justice. Here is our work. Our God is just, and therefore his people must be just and work for justice. Talking about it is not enough. Loving it is not what he requires. He demands that we work it out.
God requires us to love mercy. For some mercy is not even a part of their vocabulary. As if the only mercy to exist in the world is God's to them personally, and everyone else is judged harshly, hypocritically and without compassion by those who should know better. More often we are closer to the truth, but still only halfway there.
It is very possible to give mercy and hate it all the way through. I have seen many Christians reluctantly give mercy to the undeserving and feel as though they have done what God requires. But God does not value the actions of a man when his heart is not in it. There is no virtue is following Jonah's example, remaining bitter to the end. Make no mistake about it - Jonah is a loser in the end of that story. But to love mercy means we have the heart of God, desire to reflect his glory and bless our neighbor.
God requires us to walk humbly with him. There is a real sense in which the Christian life is an ongoing, spiritual life with God that is characterized by humility. As I see this in Scripture it often looks different from what we see extolled in the church.
What should these look like in our lives and the lives of our churches? What of other values? Is there a place for closet spirituality? Where do evangelism and other spiritual disciplines fit? In the next three posts of this series I will attempt to answer these questions as we look more closely at these three values of God.