Some of God’s commands don’t really matter, and it’s okay if we disobey them.
On the other hand, breaking the big ones will get you a fast pass to a bad place, so it’s wise to tread lightly here.
Murder, child molestation, rape, violence, . . . God reallyhates those things. They’re the first-degree felonies of God’s judicial system.
And then there are some things that God doesn’t like, but maybe He likes them a little better than the really bad things. Mild violence, occasional dishonesty, impatience, unkindness, traffic violations, not liking cute puppies, etc. God frowns at these sins, but He’s more likely to look the other way. I guess these are the misdemeanors.
And finally there are the things God said but didn’t really mean. They’re sorta like suggestions . . . we can choose to follow them or not, depending on our own personal preferences.
Are you with me so far?
You don’t agree with any of that, and neither do I, but I fear that we think like that more often than we’d like to admit.
This week we’ve been emphasizing the need for joy in the Christian’s life, and God’s urging us to be joyful in every situation is one of those commands we like to pretend isn’t there.
Have you noticed any of these verses lately?
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4).
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12).
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name (Acts 5:40-41).
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).
Maybe I’m misreading my Bible, but I keep getting the unmistakable impression that God expects us to live joyful, triumphant lives. In other words, he wants us to be optimistic, happy, and content.
And the thing is, he never connects these things with everything going the way we want it. He never says, Be happy when the stock market’s up, you feel good, and the kids aren’t threatening each other.
Instead, he says to rejoice no matter what.
On many days that’s a pretty tough pill to swallow, but is that a legitimate excuse to ignore it?
God’s attitude seems to be: we serve a risen, victorious Savior, and one day He’s going to fix this big old mess we call Earth. Until that happens, we need to be excited about what He’s doing and spread His joy to as many people as possible.
Best I can tell, if God’s got categories at all, He puts this one in the box labeled “Very Important.”