God-of-the-Angel-Armies gave me this Message for them, for all the people and for the priests: “When you held days of fasting every fifth and seventh month all these seventy years, were you doing it for me? And when you held feasts, was that for me? Hardly. You’re interested in religion, I’m interested in people.” Zechariah 7:4-6 (MSG)
A few years ago, my daughter went on a missionary journey to Morocco. She spent several months in training and preparation, then went with a team to the country with the motivation of loving people for Jesus. While most of these types of experiences can be the proverbial mountain-top spiritual experience, Taylor’s experience was exactly the opposite. Her team lacked decisive leadership that resulted in frustration and conflict within her team. She experienced physical sickness and terrible sexual harrassment the likes of which drives a father mad when he’s a half-world away and can’t be there to protect his precious daughter.
Skyping from an internet cafe, Taylor would share what I came to realize was a sanitized version of the reality she was experiencing. Among the stories of frustration, Taylor shared that one of the members of her team was an atheist who had gone on the trip because his parents, well meaning I’m sure, had basically bribed him to do so. Taylor liked this person tremendously and found herself distraught that the one member of her team who did not believe in Jesus was the person who seemed to love others with the most sincere acts of love and kindness. Perhaps he understood the teachings of Jesus better than all of those who professed to be followers.
The older I get, the more clearly I understand the words of Jesus when he said it is our acts of love that we will be known as His followers. It is not by our attendance at church, the giving of our money, my Jesus wristband, or the cheap and pithy sayings we hang on the walls of our homes. It is by our pure acts of love and kindness.
Today, God, I’m convicted by the words of Zechariah and the testimony of my daughter. I don’t want my faith to be hollow. I don’t want to be religious. I want to love others more deeply, more actively, more effectively. Show me your way.