the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
It seems everyone wants Christianity's "silver bullet" these days. They want an answer to the questions, "What does God want me to do? What is the primary way God wants me to respond and relate to him?" The truth is, the answer isn't far away; it's right there in your Bible.
On one occasion, a Jewish scribe asked Jesus to identify the most important commandment in the law. "This is the most important," Jesus answered: "Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these" (Mark 12:29-31 HCSB).
So there you have it; the proper Christian response to God is to think rightly about him,believing he is the one true God and to love him. Oh, and love your neighbor too (which has to do with servant evangelism and social justice as we will see as this series continues).
Yet, it's easy to weasel out of doing the right thing if you don't unpack what Jesus said. We should be able to take his words at face value and live it, but, as the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun. There was another time Jesus was asked what it means to love your neighbor; His answer was to tell the parable of the "good Samaritan." The message he delivered that day was difficult for his audience to swallow. Things are no different today. People still want to be justified. They still want to think they’re loving God and neighbor in the way Jesus affirmed - even when they aren't doing much of anything. After all, isn't love just warm fuzzy feelings?
It's true our emotions participate in our primary response to God. Jesus included loving with the heart and soul when he recited this commandment. That means to love with your innermost being. So there's nothing wrong with having affectionate feelings for God. It's only natural to feel that way after everything God has done for you.
But it can't stop there. Jesus also said to love God with all of your mind. In other words, the activity of your intellect must be brought under the authority of the Lord so we might use it to express love to him.
Now, you may think there isn't enough evidence in Jesus' words to make that claim. After all, can't we love God with our mind just by thinking happy thoughts about him? As a matter fact no. The apostle Paul touched on this when he said, "don't be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him" (Romans 12:2 CEV). So, our thoughts must be pleasing to God. The things we think about, the ideas we come up with, the plans we make, our approach to cross word puzzles even, must be done in a way good and pleasing to God. This is what it means to love God with your mind. To bring the machine of the mind in line with God's way of doing things.
Jesus also said to love God with all your strength. Thus, if you want to respond to God properly, you will love him in action as well. As James said, "pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27 HCSB). That's practical. Looking after orphans and widows in their distress doesn't happen by whipping up your emotions or thinking happy thoughts. Instead, it requires elbow grease and concrete acts of service. By the way, this puts us on track to fulfill the second part of our primary response to God. Remember, when asked about the most important commandment in the law Jesus gave a three-part answer. Think rightly about God, love Him with all you've got and love your neighbor too.
To be continued.