Have you noticed how in an emergency, something like 9/11 or less, all the achievements are lost in the moment and it is the basics that take priority? When those planes hit it didn't matter if you were an executive or a secretary, wealthy or struggling to make ends meet, male or female, black or white, everyone found themselves in the same place, with the same priority: to live.
In that moment people forgot about what they were wearing, what their hair looked like, what deadlines were pressing, when their next promotion was due. People's thoughts turned to getting out and those who couldn't get out did what they could to get a message to those they loved. Their thoughts were suddenly occupied with those they loved. Why are our priorities so messed up that it takes tragedy for us to realize what is important?
In this brief moment I want you to consider your family and friends. Reflect for just a moment on how much you love them, need them, appreciate them and then ask if your words and actions demonstrate this love. Part of our problem is that we are so forward in our thinking and planning we forget how important this moment is, or this day. We forget to tell our spouse we love them before heading out the door, forget to embrace them, forget to smell their hair and look into their eyes. We often miss the opportunity to sit with our children and listen to their silly conversations. We don't consider that perhaps our neighbour needs a smile, a wave or a listening ear for a few minutes. These are the moments we overlook and take for granted.
It is amazing how in tough situations all our advanced understanding of God falls away and we are left with the basic stuff. We don't consider the Greek meanings of the text or the best order of worship or even the most effective method of prayer. We bring it down to one fact: Jesus loves us. It is because of this unfailing love we are assured by his promises and we remind ourselves of those promises again and again as we face our darkest hours. This is only natural and if you don't do this and run to your self-made fortress instead of Jesus, you have failed the testing of your faith. In trench warfare the only thing that matters is that Jesus loves you, that you love him and that because of his love you have love for your neighbour.
Jesus said - the priorities are to love God and to love your neighbour
Jesus said - love one another in the same manner he loved us - sacrificially
Paul said - without love we are nothing and we gain nothing
Paul said - the only three things that last are faith, hope and love - and love is the greatest
John said - if we do not have love we do not have God
If it takes an emergency or a tragedy to bring this to our attention we have to ask ourselves if we have grasped the reality of the relationship we have with Jesus. If we grasp it how can we:
- be offended
- go to bed angry at our spouse
- be wounded by the immature actions of our children
- ignore our neighbour's need
- forget to be pleasant to everyone we meet
- put our needs above those we love
- fail to love and forgive our enemy
- and if we can do this for an enemy how can we not for our family?
If we are truly convinced that Jesus loves us then we should know that his priority is not for us to study Greek but to live a life of love. There is nothing wrong with studying Greek but it cannot be greater than the priority to love. In fact to live a life of love is our greatest priority. From prison Paul wrote:
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1-2)
Live a life worthy of the calling, not in emergencies and tragedies but every mundane day of your life. Your life no longer belongs to you because Jesus bought you at a great price. But we forget that and we forget the Kingdom priorities. Worship should not isolate us, it should give us a greater heart for God's priority, which is to love. Paul wrote:
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Is that not our greatest priority, to be like Jesus? To be like him is to live a life of love. Not just any love but with the same love Jesus loved us with. This means sacrifice. We sacrifice for our priorities. The things that matter the most are the things we spend the most money on, spend the greatest amount of time with, and give our attention to. Is that your spouse; your children; your neighbour; your mom and dad; your brothers and sisters? Or is it your television; your house; your SUV; your work?
Have you read the scriptures that tell us that everything will pass away? Do you realize that the people on 9/11 suddenly understood that everything passes away? Paul wrote:
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. (1 Corinthians 13:8)
And the Spirit has stated clearly through him:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
It doesn't matter if you have achieved financial independence, become part of the executive of your company, achieved your goal of buying a house, have two cars, or own a large screen TV; without love you are nothing and have gained nothing. It doesn't matter how great your worship sounds, how big your church is, what wonderful prophecies you have given or received, how well you understand the original Greek, whether you have a Doctorate of Theology, or if you have memorized half the Bible; without love you are nothing and have gained nothing.
Jesus told us not to chase after what the rest of the world is pursuing but instead to seek the things of the Kingdom. Perhaps it is about time that we take note of what God considers to be priority. Now go and hug the ones God has placed in your life for you to love. Give them your attention and love today.