Writing these Faith Reflections is an important part of my own faith journey. They are where I wrestle with what whatever issue seems top of mind in my own life. I hope they might be helpful for you, but they are at least equally important for me.
In early 2016 I was reflecting about the implications of the great commandment for me and for our church.
I was preparing for another busy weekend and I wrote the following reflection:
It’s time for Share and Wear again. If you are not sure what I am talking about, this two minute video will give you an idea:
Share and Wear is a very practical expression of the church living out the Great Commandment to love God and love our neighbours as ourselves.
We are currently in the middle of a three part sermon series focussing on what it means to love our neighbours. As part of the sermon series we are encouraging our people to fill out a neighbour chart which helps bring into focus the question of how we are actually doing at knowing our neighbours.
While I prepare for this weekend, and as I have been thinking about the question of what it means to take the great commandment seriously, I have been reflecting on how tempting it is to distance ourselves from the confronting parts of the bible by over spiritualizing them.
As I was preaching on the Good Samaritan last week it became clear that t by talking about “love” and “loving your neighbour” as some etherial abstraction, we can sound holy and change nothing. Often when we think we are loving everybody, we are actually loving nobody.
When we ask whats it means to love our actual neighbours, the real people we see every day, then the question is much more confronting. That question asks us to re-order our priorities.
So much of the bible is like that, and so often we avoid the confronting nature of it’s teaching by reducing them to religious ideas rather than as practical and real guidelines for a healthy life.
Next weekend I will be speaking about getting over our fear of people who are not like us. I will be speaking from Luke 7 where Jesus welcomes the gift of expensive ointment from a woman that everyone in the town knew was a prostitute. She was the kind of person that good religious people crossed the street to avoid. Instead of rejecting her, Jesus held her up as a model of love.
Jesus asks his host “Do you see this woman?” in Luke 7:44, and I am wondering whether that is the core question at the heart of the great commandment.
For us to truly love God, we need to see Him for who He is and not just our abstract ideas about Him. We need to allow the truth of who he is to change everything. We can’t fit him into our life, we have to fit into His.
For us to truly love our neighbours, we need to see them for who they actually are. They are different to us, but they are also created in the Image of God. We can’t send money to the poor little children overseas or help at a feeding kitchen and think we have done our duty.
Our neighbours are not those at arms length, a safe distance away. They are those people God has in front of us and beside us, and we can’t fit them into our lives as in convenient for us, we need to re-arrange our lives for their sake.
For us to love ourselves, we need truly see ourselves, and allow our picture of ourselves be confronted and regularly re-shaped so that we can be on a journey towards maturity.
The truth is that we too are created in the image of God. Part of us is beautiful and we need to allow ourselves to glimpse that part.
The paradox is though, that if we are to be honest, there is part of us that is completely self centred. If we are honest, we can say like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7: “The things I want to do I don’t do. The things I don’t want to do, that’s the stuff I keep on doing.” Both of these things are true of us and if we let him, Jesus wants to take us on a life-long journey of discovery to better appreciate the beautiful and better understand, and be less contaminated by, the self centred.
The Great Commandment is only possible if we allow ourselves to see.
Tomorrow morning about 1000 people will line up at the door of our church, patiently waiting for the doors to open at 10 a.m. Share and Wear is fun and a great way for our church to love our neighbours, but giving stuff away is not the essence of love. Seeing is.
Tomorrow I will be encouraging our team to take the time to see.
I will be encouraging them to reflect on what God is doing and what he cares about.
I will be encouraging them to take the time to look into people’s eyes and see them as fellow human beings created in the image of God.
I will be encouraging them to be conscious of themselves and how both sides of them are at play, particularly in a moment like this.
I will be reminding myself too…