The people of Israel are crying out in frustration, because they don’t quite understand the purpose of fasting. It appears that as long as they follow the laws of fasting, they can do whatever else they want. But the Israelites have missed the boat. The purpose of fasting isn’t just a religious ritual that can be marked off on some “holy checklist” to score points for eternity. It is to be obedient to God’s commands. Those commands are meant to make living easier, and to be a good person to others. If you follow the commandments of the Lord for reason they are meant to be followed, you will find joy in the Lord.
Fear of the Lord. The God that we worship isn’t just any run-of-the-mill god. He is powerful enough to make the seas tremble; for rivers to change course; for mountains and hills to flee. This isn’t any god, this is the God of Jacob; of Judah; of Israel. He is a God to be respected and feared (if disrespected).
1 Peter 4
We are called to serve others in the name of Jesus, rather than to conform to the evil ways of the world. There will be plenty of people to lead us astray, and/or to slander us for our beliefs. But we must stay the course. Those who stick with Jesus will be saved. To focus on the last couple of verses, if it is hard work to get into heaven as a righteous person, how much harder will it be for someone who does not believe?
God has expectations for us that are meant to bring us closer to him. These expectations are meant to make life easier for us. They are meant to give us a seat at the table in eternity. These expectations aren’t meant to be followed in order to add badges to our uniform to show off. They aren’t just hoops to jump through. They are for us to be in a relationship with God, and to better understand the nature of God. We shouldn’t get too tied up in the religious aspects of Christianity, but instead we should live joyfully, serving others out of love. Living a life of joyful serving and love is worth way more than any religious ritual that can be checked off the list.