When my wife laid out the question in the middle of our lunch-time discussion last week, I knew that it grew out of our own frustrations…and gave voice to the frustrations and earnest desires of many, many more. When we sit in church and hear the preacher…then we listen to various and sometimes competing messages of contemporary Christian music on the radio…and finally we sit with our Bibles in hand, we can at times come away asking that very question—”Okay, so what does God REALLY want from me? What does He REALLY expect of me??”
The question—at least in our conversation—was centered on what the Christian life should look like. What should our lives look like on a day-to-day basis?? How does God expect us to live??
All too often, we seem to receive these convoluted, complex designs for Christian life. Some of the recipes for faithful Christian living call the ‘faithful’ to a life of incessant religious work—at the church every time the doors open, mission trips every chance possible, or whatever pet project the church leadership wants to push. Still other plans call for seemingly unending self-reflection and self-examination—an exhausting way of life that calls every act or thought in question as believers strive to live perfect lives…according their understanding of the Scriptures. These plans and others that are set forward—intentionally or not—tend to be complex, exhausting, frustrating…or all of the above.
Is this what God REALLY expects of us?? Does God really want us to come to the end of the day frustrated and exhausted?? Hmmmm. My reading of the Scriptures says otherwise. As I read, I see those delicious words of Jesus, as refreshing as a mountain stream on a hot day: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt.11:28 NIV). I like the way the Message puts it: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest….”
As Jeanne and I talked about what God really wants from us, really expects of us, another passage came to mind that allows us to recover some of the balance we need in life. The Old Testament prophet, Micah, lived in a time when people were following all kinds of ideas about how to please God, when people were wearing themselves out to make things right between themselves and God. The prophet proclaims these consoling words:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NRSV)
There we have it! Do what is right, fair, just…love kindness—be a people of mercy and grace…and walk (not run, not park), day by day, step-by-step, with God. That’s it. We each get to fill in the blanks for ourselves. For some, that doing of justice may mean taking to the streets in protest…or it may mean simply doing the right thing by family members and neighbors. Being a people of kindness, of mercy and grace, probably means everywhere, all the time, with everyone (family included!). And walking with God…well, it reveals that our relationship with God is a journey—we haven’t arrived yet. And, it’s not a race—we don’t have to run ourselves ragged. We can relax and enjoy the sights, sounds and experiences around about us as we walk forward into the future with God.
The longer I live this life, the longer I live the faith, the more I’m convinced that God wants us—no, EXPECTS us—to live life to the full, to enjoy this life…and to help others to do the same. That full and truly enjoyable life begins when we decide to walk with Jesus.