Moving from “I have to” to “I would love to”

Moving from “I have to” to “I would love to”

Have you ever come to prayer or Bible reading or going to church and thought it was all too hard? That you knew it was a good thing to do, and you knew you should do it, but it felt just like a chore? Like doing the dishes or washing your clothes? Essential, but not pleasant? We’ve all had days like that.

Part of the problem is that we tend to think in terms of ‘deserving’ as our default setting. If we study hard, we deserve good marks. If we work hard, we should get noticed and get a raise or a promotion. If we responsibly invest our money, we deserve a good return on our investment. We feel that we need to contribute something to get something.

Most world religions work this way as well. There are countless people right now praying multiple times a day, sacrificing on a family altar, or running through the rosary, all in order to get something good from their god. Religious activities are what many do to get a good return for themselves, either in this life or on a day of judgement to come.

Christianity is not like that, and it takes us some time to understand this. In Matthew 9, Jesus was approached by a series of seriously religious people. Some didn’t like the fact that he ate with undesirable people. Others didn’t like the fact that he and his disciples did not fast as they did. Jesus explained that coming to trust in him wasn’t just like tacking “trust in Jesus” onto an existing religious tradition. It required a more dramatic change in thinking.

The Christian message is not all about ‘deserving’ anything. In fact, the Christian message is that we don’t deserve anything from God except punishment, and we cannot do anything (religious or otherwise) to impress God or get him to save us. No, Jesus is a gift to us. We trust in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, and Jesus is the one who does the work, not us. Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, not us. All we do is accept the wonderful free gift of grace.

If we understand grace, that completely changes how we approach the idea of religious activities like prayer and Bible reading and church. We don’t do them because we have to for God to love us. If we trust Jesus, God loves us more than we can imagine already. So why would we do anything at all? It’s all a response. It is all saying ‘thank you’ to God for already saving us.

This means we can do these kinds of things with joy! They are not a chore, like school homework that will lead to punishment if we don’t do it. No, taking part in prayer and Bible reading and church should be something we love to do. We are freed from thinking that we just need to do more things for God to love us. Instead, we can go on our way rejoicing. He loves us already. We should love to serve Him.

Next time you pray or go to church, don’t think: “I suppose I should do this”. Instead, think: “I get to do this. How wonderful!”