We all have habits. Some of those habits smooth out our day. We don’t really have to think about them. Some of our habits we wish we could give up. We call those our bad habits. Some of those habits come from our childhood and we never think about them. When it comes to our relationship with Jesus, do our habits free us to say yes to Him or do they make us say no to Him?
Paul asks this probing question – “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?” (Galatians 4:9)
Paul points out something we give little thought to – habits can make us slow to move or change. They can bind us. The bad habits lead us back to the sin we seek to escape. The good habits make following Jesus a habit instead of a vibrant relationship. In other words, we become a hypocrite. Paul couldn’t understand why they would choose that path. A spiritual life of mere habits is the path to slavery. It is either the path of slavery to past sins, or it is the path of slavery to legalism.
Why do we seek habits instead of walking in love with Jesus? We seek our habits because they are familiar. The familiar is comfortable. Even if we hate it, the familiar feels like home. Home is predictable. The familiar is known. We feel that the known is safe (or at least safer than the unknown). So, the familiar becomes a trap to us. We run to the familiar when our faith is challenged. We run to the familiar when we need comfort. We run to the familiar when scared or stressed. If the familiar is a habit that has little to do with Jesus, we find ourselves enslaved all over again.
What is the answer? The answer is to make something else familiar to us: running to Jesus. Paul doesn’t criticize Christians for having traditions. He criticizes any Christian who uses their family or cultral traditions as a crutch that undermines running to Jesus. You see, it isn’t about what habits we have. It is about whether those habits have Jesus at their center. Do I read my Bible to meet Jesus or because it’s on my calendar? Do I pray because I am meeting Jesus or because it’s what I do at 7 o’clock each morning? Do I go to church to be fed and praise God through Jesus or because that is what I do Sunday mornings?
The whole point of good habits is so we don’t have to think. I always put my keys in my right pocket. I always put my wallet in my left pocket. I always brush my teeth every morning. I always lock my car door when I get out. I don’t have to think about these things. They are automatic because they are habits. When it comes to my relationship with God, Jesus desires to give us more. He offers us a purposeful life. He offers us a life that is constantly renewed. He doesn’t offer mere good habits. He offers vibrant friendship. So, we need to become familiar with Jesus!
Something to think about,