There’s a lot of churches out there.
I have been a church-goer for 30 years. I’ve been serious about Christianity. I’m practical. I’m simple.
My seriousness about Christianity simply means (see? simple) as much as is within me, I am devoted and dedicated to the Lord. I’m not a bandwagon jumper. I hate them. I’ve seen a lot of trends in Christianity. Ones I have held to the light of what I understand is simple in the scriptures. I am not a Bible scholar. I do not have a degree. But I suppose that puts me kinda “up there” with guys like David (shepherd) and Peter (fisherman). Okay, gals. Like Mary Magdalene (no, I wasn’t but hey, it could of happened to any of us) and Jochabed (I’ve had a few babies).
Realizing that not everything is simple in life or simply understood through the scriptures, I just go for the simple stuff that is glaringly simple to understand.
One of my endeavors of resisting some of the bandwagons is all the “stuff” that we do, forgetting to make the main thing the main thing. I can say it because I’ve been guilty of it. We can have good intentions and think we are loving God and loving our neighbor by all our “doing” when in fact it may be about “being”. And since God is always talking about our hearts, it seems possible and probable that we can be outwardly doing things without inwardly (heart) being in line (think Peter’s denial) with God’s.
In other words, we can know all mysteries, have all knowledge, give all we have to the poor, give our bodies to be burned and not love. There’s a lot of interesting folks out there who know a lot, give their life to great causes, and die for their faith. What makes us different?
I am not going around pointing the finger at everyone. I have pointed the finger at myself over the years and have begun saying in essence, “Hey everybody, maybe we should take a close look at this.” Because I am brutally honest with myself and I think it goes without saying that sometimes Christians can be very self-righteous, self-serving, self-absorbed, and not even realize it.
This is kind of deep stuff, but not really. It’s deep because it takes us looking deeper into our hearts where God sees anyway. The message is quite simple.
Love your neighbor.
I propose that if we have not “left all” to follow Him (all the stuff that’s in our hearts and lining up with His) we are not fully “loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength”, the 1st Commandment.
I also propose that if we find we do not turn the other cheek, if we do not go the extra mile, if we turn away from one who wishes to borrow from us, if we are often impatient, unkind, envious, rude, self-seeking, easily angered, keep a “list” of wrongs, and lastly, is like the priest and the Levite who ignored the wounded man by the side of the road, then we are not “loving our neighbor as ourself”, the 2nd commandment.
The reason this is worth looking at carefully and seriously is because the old covenant was exchanged for a new and better covenant. And the entire Law of the old covenant is fulfilled in a single command: love your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5:14). We are no longer under the Law of the old covenant(Romans 6:14) yet we establish the Law in the new covenant (Romans 3:31).
I am not trying to hold up my own measure of what love should look like, I am encouraging Christians to examine their own heart and continually let this commandment be the measure and the very core of who we are. Why? Because if we are serious about our faith, and we believe there is one way to the Father through Jesus Christ, and God says this will be implemented by our love for one another, than perhaps our energy should be in developing this in ourselves and in our churches. Instead, I’ve seen books and classes and seminars offered that focus on a better life, winning attitudes, boundaries, evangelism strategies, etc., abounding in many churches. Doesn’t it seem that we’ve let the cup pass and found another way?
Consider Revelation 2, the letter to the church at Ephesus:
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.”
Sounds like a good church, doesn’t it? There’s more.
“Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from it’s place–unless you repent.”
What? You’re kidding right? No, He is not kidding. This is serious stuff.
Bottom line is I want us to be honest with ourselves. We are good at dodging the bullets and arguing our points as if we have to analyze the plain language of love God and love your neighbor. It’s all in there if we want to see it. And if we are serious about our faith and the necessity to be ambassadors for Christ and lights of the world, we would do well to do it the way God outlined it for us. If we don’t, we are recreating ourselves and not disciples of Christ.