Thursday, October 13, 2016

Requirements . . . and a Request

Have you ever thought about how many requirements we must meet just to get through everyday, ordinary life?

For example, before we can drive solo, we’re required to have a driver’s license – and for that we’re required to take a driver’s test. Most states require drivers to buy auto insurance. In the United States we’re required to drive on the right side of the road; in Great Britain and in some other countries, the requirement is to drive on the left. Various laws set forth other requirements, ranging from how fast we drive to where we park our cars – and for how long.

What about getting married? Before exchanging “I do’s,” we’re required to produce a marriage license. Some churches require premarital counseling before the pastor performs the ceremony. A good idea, since most prospective brides and grooms simply don’t know what they don’t know.

Requirements are everywhere, whether it’s working and paying taxes, applying for college, or becoming certified in specific professions. To participate in elections – at least in theory – we’re required to be U.S. citizens, residents of a city and state, and registered as a legal voter.

But what about God? Have you ever thought about what He requires?

In response, some people would cite to-do lists of varying lengths, describing the behaviors, attitudes and actions they believe the Lord expects of His people.

Others might approach the question differently, citing Bible passages that emphasize salvation and the privilege of walking with God are predicated upon His grace – His unmerited favor – not performance.

To some extent, they would both be right. We have the Ten Commandments and other laws God has ordained, essentially telling us, “This is the way My people should think, sound and conduct themselves if they’re truly seeking to follow Me.”

At the same time, passages like Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5 assert a relationship with God, being “justified,” isn’t based on anything we do. Some theologians express this as grace alone (sola gratia), faith alone (sola fide), and Christ alone (solus Christus).

So which is it? Does God require anything of us, or not? In Christianity, we’re inclined to make things more complicated than necessary. We find a brief, matter-of-fact answer to what the Lord requires in the Old Testament book of Micah, one of the so-called “minor prophets.” (I don’t think “minor” means Micah was underage of anything like that. Although the way Israelites responded to his warnings might have tempted him to drink.)

The passage says, He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). That’s it. Pretty easy, right?

But what does it mean to “act justly”? Or to “love mercy”? And exactly what does it look like to “walk humbly with your God”? As simple as these questions are, their answers are profound.

Who do you know that is doing these three things with any degree of consistency and success? How are we doing, individually, when it comes to acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God? Do we even think about it?

Lofty ideals and standards such as these are easy to verbalize, but extremely challenging to execute. Nevertheless, I can’t help wondering how different our world might be if we all got serious about these three things.

One other passage is worth a look as we ponder this divine requirement to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. Except it’s not a requirement, but a request. Deuteronomy 10:12-13 says, “…what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”

God will never coerce us into obedience. That’s why we’re requested to love and serve Him with all our heart and soul. If we have this relationship with the Lord, observing His commands and decrees isn’t burdensome, but rather an act of reverence and love. Especially knowing they have been given “for your own good.”

Put together, His requirement and His request offer a clear, unwavering guideline for what the people of God should look like. The question is, do we want to look like that?

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