Our God is compassionate, merciful, loving, caring and patient. God wants us to be like Him.
I read a story the other day and it went like this. A lady asked,
“Why is God so miserable? Why has he got such a downer on everything we do? Don’t do this and don’t do that. Don’t desire what other people have got. Don’t lie. Don’t commit adultery. It’s pathetic.”
The gentleman interrupted her with a question. “Does it really say those things, I mean, does God really say, ‘Don’t commit adultery”’? “Yes he does,” came her rapier reply. “Well, I’ve never read that bit,” I said. “You know very well it’s in the Bible,” she retorted. “It’s one of the Ten Commandments.” “Oh, now I know what you’re talking about,” I exclaimed. “It’s just that I didn’t recognize it at first because of the tone of your voice you were using.” “What do you mean,” she asked. “You’re absolutely right,” I continued. “God does say that we shouldn’t commit adultery, but not in the way you’ve read it. You see, before he gives any of the Ten Commandments he introduces himself as the God who loves Israel. He lets them know that he is for them, not against them. He wants the best for them. God didn’t sit in heaven making a list of all the things he knows human beings like to do and then outlaw them all to spoil their fun. God didn’t start his relationship with human beings by drawing up a list of moral rules that they had to keep. They are God saying, ‘I love you. I’m on your side. I got you out of slavery. I’m the best deal you’ve got going for you. Trust me. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t abandon me. Don’t commit adultery, because if you do it will unleash destructive powers that will slowly overshadow you, destroying you, your families and your society.’”
The woman looked at him in astonishment. “No one has ever explained it to me in that way,’ she said quietly. That makes a lot of sense.”
If only people would realize that the commandments shape a moral vision that gives us a picture of the character of God and God’s people rather than seeing them as a list of rules to live by whether we like it or not.
When Jesus gave us the Sermon on the Mount, it was not just another set of rules to to make us miserable. He was giving us core principles that compromise God’s character. God established the framework for moral development, to be like Him. God wants our hearts that will produce profound obedience, to display His character; a heart that radically trusts in God where obedience to Him will transform our lives.
You see, anyone can modify their outside behavior and God still not have their hearts. For example, a person may not commit violence, but yet his heart is full of hatred and rage. A person may not commit physical adultery, but commit adultery within the heart. A person may give to charity, but is missing the generosity of spirit. We can even do those things we are supposed to do, like chores or our jobs, but not have the heart of a servant.
People can follow a list of rules and clean up the outside and God still not have their heart. Jesus said to the Pharisees, the hypocrites:
“You give God a tenth of the spices from your garden, such as mint, dill, and cumin. Yet you neglect the more important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness….You wash the outside of your cups and dishes, while inside there is nothing but greed and selfishness…First clean the inside of a cup, and then the outside will also be clean…You’re like tombs that have been whitewashed. On the outside they are beautiful, but inside they are full of bones and filth. That’s what you are like. Outside you look good, but inside you are evil and only pretend to be good. (Matt. 23:23-28)
We should examine ourselves to make sure we are not Pharisees and hypocrites. Does God truly have our hearts? Do we have a faith that expresses itself by working through love? (Gal. 5:6)