“No, this is the kind of fasting I (God) want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless... "Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal... Then when you call, the Lord will answer. Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!" Isaiah 58:6-9 (NLT) [Emphasis Mine].
As we discussed earlier (Monday's devotional - link here: https://bit.ly/2SzRNWu), Israel had been acting religious. They were doing and saying all the right things so that God would be good to them. What they missed was that a relationship with God is not a relationship based on doing and receiving, but on loving and being loved. And because they did not have the right relationship with God, they couldn't possibly have the right relationship with their fellow man.
The Apostle John states it like this, saying, "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness" (1 John 2:9-13). Key evidence that we are in a consistent and loving relationship with Jesus is that we express sincere love for others, especially for other believers. Saying we merely love God, like the Israelites were doing, is only lip service and not true devotion.
If you are struggling with treating your neighbor with love and compassion, ask Jesus to forgive you and seek a deeper relationship with Him. Don't try harder, that doesn't work. Instead, give more time to your relationship with Jesus. As John 15 says, "Abide in Me." The more time you give to Jesus, the more your heart will be made tender towards the people in your life. You will no longer seek to hurt, but to heal. You won't attempt to keep for yourself, but instead, to give away. You won't spread gossip, but instead speak hope and encouragement. Our lives will reflect the love of Jesus, and He will receive the glory!
Lord Jesus, forgive me for how I have treated others. Please give me the grace I need to pursue a deeper relationship with You so that I can love others the way You do. Amen