by Christopher Harbin

Outside the Lines
Christopher B. Harbin
Ps 50:7-15; Hs 5:15-6:6; Mt 9:9-13, 18-25; Rm 4:13-25

As a child, I was taught to color inside the lines. The lines were there for a reason. They gave shape to the images on the coloring pages. The lines helped me color what I could not have drawn on my own. At times, however, there were just a set of numbers on the page, and I was to draw in the lines. In both cases, someone else designed the parameters. I worked with someone else's creativity, building on top of what another had begun. The lines were comfortable, secure, and ensured a quality I did not have the skills to create on my own. There were other times, however, when there were no lines to follow. I was to create without the safety of those crutches. In our task of faith living, how set are we in depending on the crutches and parameters of our traditions? Do we have the quality of faith to allow God to color outside the lines in our lives?

We have our determined ideas of how faith should operate. We have the sense that faith in Christ follows established parameters, guidelines, traditions, and rituals. We are not always happy with our traditions, but we cling to them, nevertheless. Worship is a known quantity with certain prayers, hymns, special music, offering collection, Bible reading, a sermon, pews, hymnals, piano, climate control, electric lighting, and someone up front for us to watch. Church is our gathering in a special building, the routines and traditions of a Sunday morning service, Sunday school, vacation Bible school, choir rehearsal, deacon meetings, committee meetings, and so forth. What do we do with the fact that God often colors outside of the lines we take for granted? What if God wants something more or different from the established patterns of our comfortable religious practices?

Hosea's words point to this reality. "I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." Isra ...

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