Monday, December 31, 2012

It's Not That Complicated

We tend to make church too complicated. When I write "we," I'm referring to the entire church, myself included.

On the flip side, I've recently seen a number of church signs and websites say things such as, "Loving God. Loving People." I have to admit that they've got it right.

Living to honor Jesus Christ can be summed up in "Loving God. Loving People." This is not some cliche, but is purely scriptural. In a familiar passage we read this:

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

What, then, does this look like? We show our love for God by loving other people. This does not mean that loving others is a means to an end, but rather that it is evidence, or fruit, of our love for the Lord.

This leads to another question: what does it mean to love other people? This is where we must be careful to avoid modern cultural definitions for love. In today's USA, love tends to be defined as warm feelings toward another. These may be familial, romantic, or platonic, but they boil down to affection based on our personal preferences.

When we look at the life of Christ, we see something different. Jesus certainly cared for other people, but we don't primarily see this through his expressing his affections in word. Rather, we see Jesus serving others again, again, and again. We read of Jesus going out of his way to help those in need. He was constantly sacrificing his own comfort, walking around in desolate and dirty places, hanging around with the "sinners" of society, and essentially living a homeless existence in order to show the love of God through service to others.

Jesus' teachings for his followers are not particularly complicated. They are very profound and revolutionary, but not complex or difficult to comprehend. For example, the Sermon on the Mount is very understandable, even to new Christians. It's the living-it-out part that is tough.

In discussing the church we can at times get distracted from what is both most important and simplest. That's loving God and loving people. We show this through acts of loving, self-sacrificing service.

"Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." I John 3:18

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