Perhaps you’ve heard an acquaintance, a friend, a family member say, “God won’t accept me until I clean myself up.” Or perhaps, “if I enter the church, lightning will come down and/or the church will catch on fire.”
Behave, believe, belong has long been the order in the church. That’s likely where these saddening responses likely come from. Even worse, some church-type folks might have said to clean up their act so that God loves them.
It’s strange. Long after the Reformation brought us back to saved through faith, it amazes and horrifies me that people who claim “the faith” still believe and (even worse) tell others that they must behave first before belief can kick in.
The Scriptures don’t, I think, lead us that direction. God has long pursued those who left God behind and does so today. Which leads me to Malachi.
Malachi’s oracle is about people claiming to worship God, which was (per the rules, the Law) including a healthy animal and viable grain. Instead, people were giving God anything besides the “good stuff”. Set aside the whole sacrifice part (that does tend to trip up we modern folks) and recognize the intent behind the actions. The people claimed to love God and worship God, but deliberately chose not to, because the sacrifice of the good animal and good grain was too much.
It could be tempting to equate the broken animals and rotten food to the people we see in the opening paragraph, but we must not. Such a person is bringing the best to God, themselves. If they are lame, God will love them. If they are blind, God will love them. If they are diseased, God will love them.
God accepts broken people. I know this because I too am broken and was more broken still when I began my true relationship with God.
The sacrifices that are condemned in Malachi reflect the people who brought them. They were blind, lame, and diseased. Yet, they chose to neither acknowledge it nor repent of it. In fact, it seems they took pride in it.
The blind, lame, diseased person who comes to God saying, “here I am, broken and all.” God says, “welcome, beloved.”
⁜ Reflection ⁜
- How do you see yourself in this? Do you see yourself in this?
- Does this challenge or change how you view those whose life decisions (including lifestyles) and their place before God?
- How often do we see the blindness, lameness, and illnesses of others rather than our own? Why does that matter?
⁜ Prayer ⁜
Gracious God, help us to learn how to be gracious and welcoming to others, just as you have been to us, and because you have been to us. Amen.