Right Behavior or Right Heart

I grew up pretty religious, so being “religious” is pretty deeply engrained in me. There are some good things about being religious, but the one really bad thing is that it can be all about behavior and not about heart. That’s the space I found myself in recently, and I wanted to find a way out.

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’

Matthew 15:7-9 (NLT)

In this passage, Jesus challenges some really religious people on their hypocrisy. We often think of these people as being evil, but were they really? Maybe they weren’t so much evil as they were out of touch, unaware and thus hard-hearted. They had developed the habit of behaving in a worshipful way but had lost the heart of actually loving God. It was religion and not relationship, and Jesus called it hypocrisy.

Acting the Part or Living the Life

When I was in high school, I acted in several school plays. I enjoyed acting because it gave me the chance to pretend to be someone else. I remember one play where my character was a used car salesman who cracked some hilarious jokes. I relished playing the role because, for that moment, I became funny, like able, and really cool – qualities I didn’t possess in real life at the time.

Isn’t that why we act? We want to be something that we’re not – something better, more respectable, more likable. But there is a problem. Though we may temporarily look better, we actually distance ourselves from God...and from people. We may have religion, but not relationship.

Ask yourself a few questions today:

  • Does my Christianity feel more like habit or heart?
  • Is there an area of my life where I see hypocrisy (behaving right but with wrong heart)?
  • Take a few minutes to think about what you can do from the heart – something that will please God. Keep it up in the days to come, and you will be on your way in moving from religion to relationship.
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