Practice Mercy Not Sacrifices

Humans love their rituals. Maybe it’s just a morning cup of coffee. Or the certain gestures and prayers we practice at church.

In the ancient world, ritual included animal sacrifice. Abraham ritually killed lambs as an acknowledgement of his worship of God. Some 2,000 years later the Jewish people had evolved Temple worship and sacrifice into a finely honed commercial enterprise.

And we thought we were original with our commercial celebration of Christmas!

Religious leaders evolved into an attitude that the manner and practice of ritual mattered more than the status of their hearts.

Jesus kept doing things that were ritually unclean. He never seemed to care about his own “ritual cleanliness.”

One time he was dining with well known “tax collectors and sinners”. Formal dinners were public affairs where other people could come and walk around and listen to the conversation or see who was invited and who was not most likely as fuel for gossip.

The religious leaders were shocked. How could he do that?

Jesus quoted God the Father, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” He followed up by saying he was more concerned with people who were spiritually ailing, not those who were already perfect. (Of course, that was a backhanded slam at people who think they are perfect, but…)

Even today, are we more concerned about gathering with people who are like us and participating in comforting ritual than we are about going out among the poor and sinners and showing mercy?

We cannot buy off God with a couple of prayers and ritual gestures. God loves a merciful heart.

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