DEVOTIONAL: What is the most important thing?
As I try to live out my calling to know, love and serve Christ, I am bombarded by thoughts, scriptures and ideas about what is most important.
Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40).
I take that to include his "golden rule": "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets" (Mathew 7:12).
Furthermore, he gives us the only scriptural description of judgement day in Matthew 25:31-46:
"'And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'"
Funny thing: Jesus says nothing here about believing all the right stuff, memorizing the catechism and creeds, or even attending the right church.
According to John Wesley, there are three simple rules for our faith: 1) Do no harm; 2) Do good; and 3) Stay in a close, loving relationship with God.
Sounds easy enough, but then when I consider what it means to "do no harm," life gets complicated. Does that mean that I can't buy that sweatshirt that was made in an overseas sweatshop? Does that mean I need to speak up when someone tells a racist or sexist joke? Doing no harm can get complicated in a hurry. If I don't recycle, am I doing harm?
Thinking that maybe it's easier to "do good," I think about helping the poor and struggling in our community and in the world. Then I get concerned about crossing the line between a kind, loving, Christian hand up and when we help so much that we create a dependency.
How do we "stay in love with God"? No matter how deep our faith, there are times when God seems distant. Even Mother Theresa confessed in her diaries that throughout a long period of her life, God seemed quite distant from her though she remained faithful.
I don't have all the answers, but I do pray, read the scriptures, listen and try to be attentive to what God is saying and doing in my life and in the world. I confess that I think it would be much easier if God could spell things out a little more clearly from time to time.
My point is that though we may wish our faith to be very simple and easy, it is not. If your faith is simple and easy, you're probably not doing it right!
I'm a firm believer that our faith and the Bible are wonderful gifts from God that are intended to challenge us to be the best people we can be — and that doesn't come easy or naturally. If being the best people we could be came easy and naturally to all of us, we would be living in a world with no murders, fewer conflicts, more respect, decency, kindness, compassion and love. If being the best we could be and always doing the right thing came easy, we really wouldn't have much need for the Bible, prayer, faith, the Holy Spirit or the support and encouragement of the Christian community. It doesn't come easy or naturally.
Our faith is not good because it's easy and uncomplicated. Our faith is good because it causes us to struggle to be better than we are. Sometimes we achieve that status of being better than we are because we have the teachings and example of Jesus to guide us.
What is the most important thing? Perhaps, it is struggling to see ourselves in relation to each other, God, the world and really trying to overcome our selfish human nature.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week. It is a week in which even Jesus struggled when he prayed, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done" (Matthew 26:39).
Go to the church of your choice. Engage in the struggle to be the best person you can be and in so doing, give glory and honor to God.
Just one question. "What do you think is most important?"