Following Ritual…Forgetting Relationship?
I’m currently reading in the Old Testament book of Zechariah which, in the beginning, is filled with lots of visions that God gives the prophet, Zechariah. Like most of the minor prophetic books, Zechariah is a pronouncement of both judgment and restoration. In chapter 7 God tells the prophet that He is not particularly interested in the rituals of obedience and fasting; keeping an outward form of religion while not demonstrating love for each other. Admittedly, the church of Jesus Christ has struggled with this since her beginning. Of course, every other religious system has struggled even more in my opinion, but there is this sort of default position to follow ritual and forget relationship. In Zechariah 7:9 we read this: 9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion; everyone to his brother. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.’ This is a large component of what Christian obedience ought to look like isn’t it? Sure, there are some specific commands that God gives to us individually but the entire Bible is mostly about relationship and there is a special emphasis on relationship to the disadvantaged and the poor.
Here’s a question to consider: What aspect of your worship involves what verse 9 says? So often we forget how “communal” our faith is intended to be. The entire Bible speaks of community. You can’t be a follower of Jesus by yourself. Can you show mercy and compassion by yourself? No…that needs to be expressed in community with others. In an affluent society like ours we often don’t “need” others to get by materially but we absolutely need others to get by spiritually. I can’t relate to God without relating to you. Ritual can be meaningful but even most of what we describe as “ritual” in worship is done in community with others. Let’s heed the voice of Zechariah. Let’s evaluate our worship based on the words of verse 9 and make whatever adjustments God leads us to make.