Ecclesiastes 5:7 (NASB)
For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.
But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
After worship children of staff (including my own grandchildren) may be seen running around the chancel area of the church building. Some number of years ago the mere idea of such carryings-on would be unthinkable. Today we half-heartedly shush our children, and then carry on with our conversations and activities. Some would worry that this is an abuse of holy space. Others would dismiss such worries as ill-advised at best.
I’m not advocating an abandonment of reverence in the house of the Lord. Neither, however, am I demanding that people keep their children out of the altar area. But lest we mistake a reverence for the house of God for a true fear of God in all of life, an observation seems appropriate. Fearing God has to do with not only the one to three hours we spend in a church building each week; it has to do with how we spend the other 165 +/- hours each week.
People can engage in words and dreams, or in stupid controversies, and quarrels about rubrics or liturgical etiquette without ever encountering God. Forms may help us express our reverence and worship of God, but they may also cover over unbelieving hearts, and prevent people from loving their neighbor. God desires mercy person to person, not just ritualistic sacrifice. In fact, Jesus says that if you’re bringing your offering to church and remember that you have a bone to pick with your brother, leave your offering and go first be reconciled to your brother then bring your offering!
Thank God that Jesus shows us what this looks like in real life – including things like healing on the Sabbath. He died for us who don’t get that right -despite our best efforts. And his Holy Spirit enables us to grow more Christ-like in our dealings with others; as more and more we fear and love God above all things.