When Religion Becomes the Excuse
. . . To love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. Mark 12:33
In the painful consequences of my addiction, I came to know tremendous situational anxiety as my future was so uncertain. My marriage was a mess. My career hung in the balance. I was unsure if I was going to continue practicing as a physician. I was desperate to put life back together right now, but for months there were daily challenges that threatened my future. I was a mess, but in recovery, I had truly learned to turn to God, so I daily prayed, attempting to give my anxieties to him.
I did right in starting with prayer, but in my prayer, I repeated the same mistake I’d made with my addiction. In my addiction, I just prayed for God to take it away, without being willing to do anything. God, fix this. I’m not going to get help. You just do it. I used pseudo-faith as an excuse to do nothing. So, in the anxiety of my early recovery, it occurred to me that I may need to actually do something. For me, that something meant reaching out to those around me who were struggling as I did. In going to jail and meeting with other addicts, I got myself out of my own mind. As it turned out, obeying God’s command to love my neighbor was exactly what my anxiety needed.
In today’s passage, when asked what the greatest commandments were, Jesus answered that we must love God with all that we are, and we must love our neighbors as ourselves. The man asking the question had an epiphany when he realized obedience in these things was more important than what he previously considered to be his religious duty.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray. Jesus commanded us to pray. I’m just saying if we’re stuck in that place where we’ve prayed about something a thousand times and nothing has happened, it’s time to consider action. God, what do you want me to do? Obedience is what God asks of us, but we often use prayer and pseudo-faith as the excuse to do nothing. If I just believe and pray hard enough, God will fix this. God though, is waiting for us to act in obedience, loving him and loving those around us. Obedience is often the beginning of transformation.