v 13. I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.
Jesus draws attention to one of the most basic principles of Christian faith – and it was one enshrined in the Jewish Old Testament too if only they had hung on to it! Put simply it is this: no amount of religious activity such as offering sacrifices, joining in with singing and praying, and so on, can ever be a substitute for the heart-change evident in extending mercy to those in need. True faith in God is demonstrated by a life change rather than by religious activity. Being ‘very religious differs from true faith by quite a margin. Paul spoke about that too when he visited Athens. (Acts 17:22 ‘Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way ‘) But being devoted to religion had not enabled them to know the one true God, nor had it changed their lives.
Religious activity can be a cop-out from genuine faith and following Jesus. There is common view that religion can be kept in a separate box and not impinge on the rest of life. What do you say to people who comment about you that you seem to be very religious because you seem to spend quite a time on Church activity? Perhaps it can become the opportunity to explain about your faith, and how it is more than religious activity because it shapes and motivates the whole of your life. We cannot keep faith in a separate compartment labelled ‘Religion’; following Jesus is a whole-life commitment. Learning what mercy means in everyday life is one aspect of our faith.