Thursday, January 27, 2011

Following Jesus Is As Complicated As 1, 2, 3

Serving God, following Jesus, being a disciple of Jesus is not such a complicated thing. We complicate it. We complicate it because we try to make it an easy thing. I said it wasn't complicated, I didn't say it was easy. It is like at our school; the rules are not complicated but they are not always easy either. They can be summed up in one word: respect. If every student kept that in mind then following all the rules becomes simple, but not always easy. Relationships between some students can become a difficult thing but if respect is kept in place then no rules will be broken. It is not always possible for students to agree with everything a teacher is saying but if respect is kept in its place then things can be worked out. Now let's apply this to being a disciple of Jesus.

When Jesus was tested by the Pharisees they asked a simple question: What is the greatest commandment. A simple question that they thought would have a complicated answer. Keep in mind that the commandments had been expanded by man so now there were commandments right down to how to tie your shoe. That was a lot to choose from and I am sure their intention was to get embroiled in a large and lengthy argument, but Jesus saw what they could not. However, he could not give just one commandment because it went hand in hand with another:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Matthew 22:37-39)

Now what is equally important to realize is what Jesus stated next:

"All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:40)

You see, not complicated but not necessarily easy. Somewhat like the rules of the school, everything that God has instructed us to do, how to live, the relationships that we have are summed up in these two things. Someone might say we can sum it up in one word but I think the word 'love' has been too abused for us to leave it at that. The love God expects from us is all encompassing, all consuming, passionate and sacrificial. Jesus told us that there cannot be any half-measures about it:

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:37)

It is this depth of love that makes it possible to follow Jesus:

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:23-24)

Not complicated, right? But not easy either because such love demands sacrifice from us. It demands time, effort, submitting our will, setting aside our desires, putting away our opinions. These are all difficult for our flesh to do and require us to lift Jesus up above everything else in worship, prayer and action. It is only when we realize his glory that our flesh is willing to submit. It is no different then the second part about our neighbour.

To love our neighbour as ourself requires that we understand that our neighbour is also the object of God's affection. When we realize just how much God loves us we should also realize how much he loves our neighbour and we should show our neighbour the love and respect due to an object of God's affection. He loves them just as much as he loves us so they deserve our love and respect:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

This is such an important point in our discipleship that Jesus made it clear that everyone is considered our neighbour, even our enemies:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48) 

Not complicated, easy to understand, but requires a complete abandonment to God's love in order to live. So that is the journey we are on, learning how to love as the Father loves us, with plenty of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. God wants all of our heart not just a portion of it. He wants all of our passion. He wants us to be consumed by him because in being consumed we will be naturally obedient in all matters of the heart. Every day we learn to die a little more to ourselves and to become more alive in Jesus Christ. Not complicated unless we decide to make it so.

1 comment:

Judith said...

great blog!"If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?" — David Livingstone