Rules vs. Relationships
"He [Jesus] looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored."1
God is not into rules. He's into relationships. For example, when Jesus healed the man with the withered hand on the Jewish Sabbath, the religious leaders began to plot how they might kill Him. Jesus was angry with these Pharisees because, among other things, they loved their rigid rules more than they loved people. They may have had religion, but they certainly didn't have Christ, Christianity, or God!
What is even more absurd is that these same religious leaders who murdered Jesus insisted that He be taken off the cross before sundown (the beginning of their religious Sabbath day) on the day they killed Him because it wasn't "lawful" for Him to be hanging dead on the cross on their Sabbath. To leave Him there would have broken one of their laws and they would have felt ceremoniously unclean! Imagine that!
As strange as it may seem to many, religion may send more people to hell than anything else! That is, religion that depends on one's own "good works" or man-made laws, rules or traditions. These will never get anyone to heaven. God's Word, the Bible, makes it very clear that: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."2
Again, God isn't into religion or rules. He's into relationships. Jesus died so that we could be reconnected to God and have a right relationship with Him. He also wants to make us whole so we can have wholesome relationships with others and live in harmony with God’s laws—not to get us into God's heaven, but so we can live wholesome lives.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank You that You gave Your Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sins so that I could have a right relationship with You, others and myself. Help me to live by Your laws that give life and not be bound by man-made religion, legalistic rules, or traditions that are not based on Your Word, the Bible. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. Mark 3:5 (NIV).
2. Ephesians 2:8–9 (NKJV).