I always overthink things. One of my difficulties as an introvert is small talk. I have a few go-to questions to ask to begin conversations and then I am hopelessly, fearfully lost. It can become hard to even think of answers to basic questions. So, my heart starts racing, and I start second-guessing myself. Most of the time it is because of a very simple question. Drastic overthinking. (You won't believe how many times I have started, stopped, and restarted this blog.)
The Pharisees over thought everything. They had an answer for every possible scenario and made a law to cover it. Have you ever looked at laws states have that were put into effect decades ago for a reason that might have made sense back then? Did you know in Arizona it is illegal for a donkey to sleep in a bathtub? In California, it is illegal to whistle for a lost canary before 7:00 a.m. In Montana it is illegal to give a rat as a present. Too many strange inconsequential laws can make our lives very difficult. We can get stuck in constant fear of doing the wrong thing.
When we first become Christians it can be easy to fall into legalism if we are not exactly sure what we are supposed to be doing. But it can also be easy to fall back into legalism or only doing things because they are habits when we have been Christians most of our lives. If we have gone to church every Sunday our entire lives, are we going because it’s expected? Required? Just a habit we feel guilty not continuing? Jesus calls us to more. He calls us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mt. 22:37-39) Jesus said, “All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Mt. 22:40) If you look at the Ten Commandments specifically, you can see the first 5 are followed if we are loving God with our entire being. The last 5 are followed if we are loving our neighbors as ourselves.
All of the commandments God gave were to help us love Him and love others. So, we must ask ourselves, do all the rules, regulations, and habits we have made up follow those two commands? Why are we doing them? For example, one of the “rules” I grew up with was dressing up on Sunday. I’m not sure it was actually required, but it was certainly expected of me as a pastor’s daughter. While we might be able to justify this “rule” as loving and respecting God, is it loving and respecting our neighbors if we expect or require this? We can dress nicely for church, but what if our neighbor cannot afford to do so? What if there are any number of other reasons they just can’t? Do we love and accept them anyway? Are they welcome anyway? How are we loving them? How are we loving everyone around us?
Have we made rules or expectations because of habit? Because that’s how things have always been? What is the focus of our hearts? We need to ask, “Why?” Why do we read our Bible every morning? Why do we do this or that? Are we paying attention to what God is trying to show us, or are we on auto-pilot and just “getting it done”? Track your habits. Make sure your heart is focused on loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself.