Dear brothers and sisters,
This weekend we conclude our series 180°. Jesus came to do the changes and turnarounds in our lives that we can’t do on our own, whenever we are going the wrong direction in life, and in the course of this series we’ve looked at ways that he does that: facing judgment, healing our hearts, taking courage, changing our wrong thinking, stewardship of our gifts. To finish our series, we’re going to look at the way we view God’s commandments: do we view them as mere rules to follow, or as a means to build and improve relationships? In Matthew 15:1-9, we see that the scribes and religious leaders are jealous of Jesus, and they follow him not because they want to listen to him, but to catch him doing something wrong. Here they catch Jesus’ disciples not following the Jewish law of ritually washing their hands before meals. Jesus replies that the religious leaders themselves created a loophole to get around one of God’s commandments: instead of honoring one’s father and mother, they followed a tradition that a person could dedicate money for the Temple instead of supporting their parents. Jesus says that they are nullifying God’s commandment for the sake of mere human tradition. We try the same thing: we look at commandments as mere rules to follow, and then we try to push limits and find loopholes. For example, young people when learning the 10 Commandments will often try to do this, instead of learning to build a relationship with God. We become hypocritical when we merely follow rules and not get to the heart, and God’s desire is that we love him and love others. Do we relate to God as a mere checklist of rules to follow? Do we deal with others in the same way? In John 15:12 Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” Here Jesus closes all the loopholes, giving us a model to follow, and showing that his love for us is laying down his life for us. Let’s view God’s commandments as a means to soften our hearts so to more deeply love God and our neighbor. Questions for small groups:
What are some dumb rules you have to deal with right now or have had to deal with in the past? What made or makes them dumb?
When was the last time you tried to get around a rule or push it to its limit?
When have you seen rules get in the way of relationships?
Read aloud Matthew 15:8-9. How is your heart right now? Is your heart softening or hardening towards God?
How is your heart towards people? Are you loving people or more focused on rules than relationship?