I love the satisfaction of crossing off items on my to-do list. Sometimes when I am writing a to-do list, I actually include jobs that I have already completed in order to have the satisfaction of crossing them off straight away. It makes me feel that I have achieved something in the day. Sadly, I sometimes reduce my relationship with God down to a to-do list. I fall into the trap of thinking that God has a to-do list and I need to somehow complete the list in order for him to love me. Like most human relationships, I tend to assume that my relationship with God depends on how much I can do. It is a mistake that a lot of us make. In God’s kingdom, God is always more concerned with the state of our hearts than he is with us ticking off boxes. In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus challenges our perspective on rule-keeping. He says:
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement.”
Here, Jesus explains that God will judge us for showing anger towards one another. If you have ever dealt with an angry person, you know how they can affect those around them. Jesus is talking about the kind of anger that builds up and causes us to lash out. This kind of anger desires to harm others and can bubble up from a belief that someone has taken from us. Therefore, we wish to take from the other.
Every day we will find ourselves doing what is wrong in God’s eyes. However, Jesus’ motivation in exposing our hearts is not to burden us with guilt, but for us to recognise our need for his grace. God has sufficient grace to forgive us and sufficient grace to continue in our life-giving relationship with him. Where we have failed, Jesus has succeeded. It is his righteousness, not our own, that allows us to claim a relationship with our creator. What amazing grace this is!