Throughout this series we’re exploring how to leverage wholeness for our lives. And since Jesus said that God’s Word is summed up in loving God and others, we can simplify the threat to our wholeness as neglect or distortion of one or both relationships. Today we’re looking at His call to love others.
Let’s be clear: if you or those around you are ‘religious’ (a word I really dislike), there’s likely already influences on you to “love God” – whatever that may mean to them. But religion is a person’s attempt to reach God. Resting in Jesus’ life and death in our place and being changed by the gracious invasion of His Spirit is God’s effective rescue of undeserving people. In that sense, true Christianity is not a ‘religion’. Seeing the difference is crucial. Otherwise, we will live in obsessive fear that we are not pleasing God by our works of love for Him or others, or we will live in obsessive pride that we are. Either will rob us of wholeness in Christ. (Isaiah 64:6, Matthew 23:12, Ephesians 2:1-10, etc.)
And let’s be clear on today’s point: in western societies, we’re at particular risk of neglecting love for others as Jesus has shown and commanded. The west emphasizes individualism and “personal” (i.e., private) relationship with God. In the remaining space, let’s consider two common communities.
Like me, many of you have lived in rural areas, major cities, and the burbs. I grew up off an unpaved road, over two miles from a highway. Since then, I’ve lived in a metropolis or two here and overseas, but I still have friends who live 30 minutes from any town. As different as the backwoods and big cities are, both are becoming more isolationist in their mindsets and habits. See if you can relate.
My current neighbors refer to our loop as a “bedroom community”: the residents work in the city but live far enough away to enjoy lower costs and a quieter lifestyle. In fact, as I’ve walked our loop dozens of times over the past two years, it’s so quiet that very few have returned a “hello” or even made eye-contact on the same sidewalk. In talking with some, the consensus is this: many are so jaded by the rat race at work, these people no longer like people. I get it. I’ve been there, too.
Farmers generally excluded, others’ have removed themselves even farther from potential conflicts. They, too, are familiar with the growing number of rude retailers in fast food, random and planned crimes, corrupt politics, etc., but they don’t worry about neighbors. They don’t have any. Or they’ve chosen rural areas where the nearest neighbors are more likely to look alike and share their exact beliefs and values. They live the illusion that the world should be as they are. That’s been me, too.
Both groups are right: human nature is selfish, so even relationships with fellow Christians can be hard. (Romans 12:1-21, Galatians 5:13-26, 1 Peter 4:12-19) But both are wrong, too: God Almighty is inherently relational as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so our wholeness requires similar relationships of sacrifice, commitment, and levels of intimacy appropriate to godliness. (Leviticus 19:9-18, Luke 10:25-37, James 2:16, 1 John 4:20)
But don’t take my word for it. Consider more of God’s Word in this week’s video.
You can see other articles and the embedded videos in this series here.