Not long ago, my nephew sent me THIS LINK promising that “this guy summed up the entire Bible in one Facebook post, and it was perfect.” The post was pretty clever, depicting God, Jesus, the prophets and apostles telling the people not to do “the things.” The people agree not to do “the things,” but then end up doing them, anyway.
I chuckled when I read it, and then later it hit me — this is the common understanding of religion. It’s all about not doing “the things.” God has given us a laundry list of sins and we strive to avoid them. We mess up, of course. When we do, God heaves a big, frustrated sigh; tells us not to do “the things” again; we agree; we fail– and the whole maddening cycle starts over again.
If religion is all about not doing “the things,” Hitler would have been a paragon of virtue since he didn’t smoke or drink, avoided meat in his later years and spurned public displays of affection with his partner, Eva Braun. Admittedly, we can find numerous references to God telling His people not to do “the things.” The Ten Commandment injunctions not to steal, covet or bear false witness readily comes to mind. But what about the other side of the coin? Flip it and you will see shining encouragements to do good:
“…excel in the grace of giving…” (II Cor 8:7)
“Bear one another’s burdens…” (Gal 6:2)
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…” (Heb 10:24)
“You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land” (Deut 15:11).
You get the idea. I wonder how our Christianity would change if we shifted the emphasis on not doing “the things,” and doing the positive things that give life fullness and meaning, such as serving, giving, worshipping and loving our neighbors as ourselves?
Worth a try, don’t you think?