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Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Much of my growing up took place in an environment with an emphasis on “shoulds.”  That is not a bad thing by itself. We all need to learn what we should do in given situations. But I came to see the Christian life as a list of “shoulds.”

At best it came to feel very sterile and lonely. At worst, very burdensome. I was one of those people who really tried to keep the rules. I wanted to keep GOD happy. I also tried to keep my parents happy. It just seemed so difficult. Motives were often misunderstood. I did stupid things out of simple immaturity. I sinned plenty too, for sure! Motives were judged by others who didn’t know me well…and didn’t seem to want to know me. The burdens and loneliness were often overwhelming!  stop

The people in the Christian community around me at certain stages of my life, were often very judgmental without any desire to know why the immature behavior was there. It was much easier for them to decide I wasn’t “spiritual” enough (whatever that is) and write me off. Actually, I was very sensitive and wanted to be a “good Christian.” I just couldn’t seem to get there in that particular culture.

Living with a bunch of shoulds is lonely and miserable. We weren’t meant to live that way…but in relationship–with our heavenly Father & with each other!

In retrospect, it’s good I had that experience. As an adult who was often a pastor’s wife, I knew how lonely it felt to have my motives judged by people who didn’t know me well enough to make those judgements. I knew how hard it was to be told about all the “shoulds” of the Christian life without a strong emphasis on Jesus and how He fulfilled all the requirements of the “shoulds”…and more! The really big “should”…Love GOD with all your heart and love others as yourself…that none of us meet. That is the one Jesus fulfilled totally for us!

I knew how lonely it felt to have my motives judged by people who didn't know me well enough. Click To Tweet

He is the only One who can give spirit and vitality to this life. It is only in relationship with Him through His Word and prayer that we can know and relate to Him. It is only through Him that we find the forgiveness we need for failing the really big  and most important “shoulds.” To say nothing of the many sins we commit that keep us failing regularly.

When we are struggling with issues that seem to have no solution? We find answers over time in and through Jesus. Life experience often gives us perspective on issues we may have struggled with for years. But we wouldn’t have been enlightened without Christ and the Holy Spirit He has given to open our eyes to truth He teaches us over the years.

Jesus isn’t about lists of shoulds. He is about a relationship with Him and His Word.

So the next time, you are struggling with a list of “shoulds” that seems to keep you bound to burdens of rules or tied up in bondage to what others think of you or your family, remember this: The Christian life is not designed for robots who are supposed to function in set ways when certain things happen.

Jesus made people of flesh and blood. We are each very different and unique. Each of us is at a different stage of our growth in grace. It was that way with the various characters in the Bible, with the different disciples and it is that way with us.

Jesus isn't about lists of should's. He is about a relationship with Him and His Word. Click To Tweet

We will not go through life without making mistakes…often huge ones. Often our sin will stare us in the face and even shock us! It is not our job to live our lives to avoid making mistakes and sins as we carefully navigate life! The chief end of man (humanity) is to glorify GOD and to enjoy Him forever. (Westminster shorter catechism) It is not to keep a list of “shoulds” and make everyone happy around us.

As the years have passed since I learned this truth, the Christian life has become much more enjoyable and liberated and much less miserable.

Yes, we have standards to live up to from GOD’s Word, but we don’t have to live with a bunch of “shoulds” hanging around our necks. It is our job as Christians to glorify GOD and enjoy Him. We will never do that perfectly. We will have to go to Jesus often for failing. But the rest will take care of itself after that.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you,
asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will
in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him:
bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might,
for all endurance and patience with joy;

giving thanks to the Father,
who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us
to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—
all things were created through him and for him.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

And he is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in everything he might be preeminent.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,
he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death,

in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast,

not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard,
which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven,
and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Colossians 1:9-21

Jesus fulfilled the Law and the true shoulds for His people. That is our encouraging word for today!

The truth is that Jesus has fulfilled the Law for His people. As those who have been redeemed, we stand before GOD dressed in the righteousness of Jesus. It’s not our own righteousness based on doing the “shoulds.” Yes, we are to behave as the people of GOD, but we don’t need to have ourselves shackled with lists of “shoulds” around our necks.

That is the good news of the gospel. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Law for each of us who are in Christ and have been reconciled to GOD.