My mom made sure to keep my brother and I busy as kids. One of the activities I remember well is sitting at the kitchen table doing paint by numbers.
Little black and white pictures outlining the shape of the design.
Small pots of bold, primary colored paint and a simple plastic brush with all too flexible bristles.
Each section of the painting was marked by a number that indicated the color you should paint the area. Bit by bit, color by color, the painting slowly took shape. By the end of the masterpiece, you had surely graduated from preschool hand painting status to Van Gogh incarnate.
Because paint by number so restrictively requires you to put the right color in the right spot and stay within the lines, it turns out to be a very prescriptive and in turn restrictive way to paint. If you doubt it, ask any artist that you know. Although the painting appears masterfully done, just below the layers of the painting it becomes evident that the artist wasn’t as skilled as it seemed.
Unfortunately, many Christians live a paint-by-numbers Christianity. They scour the scriptures to devise a plan for how to act in every potential situation. They obsess over how to “perform” in situations that only exist hypothetically.
Matthew 6:1 (Message) says
Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.
Jesus’ Christianity was based on his relationship with God. His obedience to the commandments was not surface, paint-by-numbers Christianity but the result of relationship with God where Jesus walked and talked with God daily.
Is your Christianity prescriptive, paint-by-number or does it reflect the beauty of who God truly is?