I spent a few years in the theater in high school and then into the military as part of my career there. I was not a "performer" in the theater, although I did have a small part in a production once, but it was really not my forte. I was a "behind the scenes" kind of person - building sets, finding just the right props, etc. I liked the challenge of taking a totally flat surface of canvas stretched taught over a frame and turning it into the backdrop resembling old structures, hillsides, or the inside of a 1930's parlor. It intrigued me to see the sets come together and then stand back to see the "effect" they created. Two dimensional flats gave the appearance of three dimension and took you into worlds you might not have traveled otherwise. What made theater so interesting for others was the ability to "perform" the parts of the characters in the production. They enjoyed the challenge of getting the role down, including the accent, appearing like an aged woman or man, and the like. They would study their parts, memorizing lines, rehearsing ad nauseum and spend endless hours cultivating their role. As much effort as I put into the sets to get them to look "real", the performers were putting into their development of their part in the play. I think there are times in our lives when we spend a great deal of time creating an "image" and cultivating our "performance" in the "religious" realm only to come to the place of recognizing our "performance" is a bit of a "flop"!
Clean living before God and justice with our neighbors mean far more to God than religious performance. (Proverbs 21:3 MSG)
Anytime we focus more on our "performance" and on our "appearance", we are wasting valuable time we could have spent allowing God to actually change us into the appearance only he can give and the performance which comes because we are learning to live as he desires us to live. Religious performance is not relationship-based. It is the glory of Christ revealed in us which comes only to the degree we are willing to spend time getting close to him which gives us the appearance which is envied by all. It is the grace of Christ cultivated in our lives which gives us the performance which touches the lives of others and helps them to desire to be filled with the grace as much as we are. It is one thing to have "religious performance", but something quite different to engage in deep, intimate fellowship with Jesus. One produces a "performance" of sorts, something quite rehearsed and not natural or real; the other produces a change of character entirely, moving us from one way of living into another. The latter is real and is what God desires more than anything else.
Clean living before God and justice with our neighbors. Sound familiar? It should - since through all of history God has been emphasizing these same two things. Have one God, pay attention to this relationship like it matters the most, and allow him to pay attention to you because YOU do matter the most to him. In turn, you will love each other as he loves you. Same truth, just a different way of saying it. How it is accomplished is by being willing to shift from "playing a part" to allowing the character change to actually occur. It is more than "bit acting" - it is life transformation God is after - allowing all of our lives to become models of his. He makes a beautiful "set" out of our lives - not just one which gives the appearance of being one way - but a multi-dimensional work of beauty which is a genuine reflection of the original (Christ).
Now, don't you think it is about time we stop "playing the part" of "Christian" and actually draw close enough to him to recognize when we are simply "play-acting" and when we are being "transformed" into his image? Just sayin!