Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Worshiping Like Rival Surfers

In the movie Soul Surfer, teenage girl Bethany has her arm bitten off by a shark while surfing. Bethany had just received a sponsorship for a surfing tournament and was a favorite to win it big in the surfing world. Before she lost her arm, Bethany's biggest rival was mean and petty to her and she continued to be so, even after the shark incident. But Bethany worked her way back to competition shape, learning how to surf all over again. At the climax of the movie, in a surfing contest, this one-armed girl catches the best wave of the day and rides it to what should have been a contest winning score. The only problem was that Bethany caught the wave right after the buzzer sounded announcing the end of the contest. The rival, having won the contest, pulled Bethany onto the platform with her and shared the trophy, saying, "The judges may not have counted that last wave, but I did." In spite of their intense rivalry, the admiration Bethany's rival developed because Bethany had overcome the odds and learned how to surf all over again overrode any technicalities.

In 2 Chronicles, we read the account of King Hezekiah, who re-instituted the law and religious festivals after they had been ignored for decades. Hezekiah held a massive Passover feast but the people, who hadn't celebrated in so long that that proper purification rites had been forgotten, participated in the feast without ceremonially purifying themselves. As a result, God apparently sent some sort of plague among the people, but Hezekiah interceded for them, praying, "May the good Lord provide atonement on behalf of whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, Yahweh, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary." And God heard Hezekiah's request and healed the people (2 Chronicles 30:18-20, HCSB).  Even though the people weren't following all of the technicalities, God healed them and allowed them to participate because their hearts were seeking God, even if their knowledge of all the rules was incomplete.

Rules and technicalities are important and exist for a reason, but God is more concerned with the state of one's heart. One of God's recurring complaints through the prophets was that the people of Israel were following all of the technical rules but that their hearts were far from God. God cares about rules. But God cares more about the state of one's heart. God wants us to follow the rules, but when we mess up because of ignorance or make an honest mistake while seeking God with our whole heart, God is willing to overlook the occasional technicality, especially because seeking God will lead us to eventually learn and live by the guidelines God has laid out for us.

If God is willing to cut us some slack, shouldn't we cut ourselves some slack when we are seeking God but mess up. Better yet, shouldn't we cut others some slack?

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