The longer I walk with Jesus the more complicated my life seems to get.
Kids, ministry, job, dreams, bills, skills, personality flaws, responsibilities… the list is endless. Life is complicated. Scary. Confusing. Worrysome.
At the same time, the longer I live the more simple the application of God’s Word gets.
When things seem really complex and over my head I am reminded of how Jesus spoke into the complexities of a “religious life.”
One day Jesus was talking with a group of religious people. And, as religious people are known to do, they all carried a specific agendas. They wanted to know if Jesus was on their team. As they sat around testing Jesus on his belief on the issues of the day they were flustered by his ability to respond with Option C on an Option A or B test time and time again.
They were upset with him because he had taken the things that divided people… agendas with teams, financing, factions, and power… and given simple answers with a new agenda.
So they put their heads together and nominated the biggest religious expert in the room to trap Jesus. This question was the 1st Century equivalent of, “If God is a good God, why do bad things happen in the world to good people?”
Here’s the agenda-laden trap:
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘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.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus’ agenda for your life is quite simple. As we see above, all of a God-pleasing life flows from those two bullet points:
- Love God with everything.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
A popular phrase in Evangelical circles, full of agenda, has repackaged Jesus’ words and simplified it too far by saying we are called to “Love God, Love People.” But I think Jesus is smarter than they are. And his agenda rings clear enough for me.
Jesus’ agenda for my life is to love him with everything I’ve got. (From my skills, to my personality, to my family, to my vocation… everything) And the action of that agenda is to love my neighbors as myself. (You know, the people I live near, see in my daily life. Neighbors implies really close to me, and is specific to a group of people I’m to have regular casual contact with. It’s the people on my block, not the people in the pews or in my youth group.)
All of God’s word is to be applied through that lens. Jesus sets the agenda.
When I study Scripture I’m left to ask myself, “How is God calling me to love him?” and “How can I love my neighbors as myself because of this teaching?”
It’s personal and communal– but not religious
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a deep love for the church. In the same passage of Matthew 22 and other places in the Gospels, Jesus refers to his relationship with the church as his bride. To disrespect the church is de facto disrespecting Jesus. (If you said you loved me but disrespected my wife… I’d punch you in the face. What kind of husband wouldn’t?)
I’d prefer not to get punched by Jesus for disrespecting his bride.
At the same time, I wonder if many churches have made the agenda about them? There’s nothing more annoying than a selfish bride. Sure, there is love there… but there are a lot of strings attached to that love.
Other churches are defined by their size… hardly a respectful description for a bride. We’d politely say things like, “She must be a good cook.” Right?
Other Christians are defined by the political bedfellows they keep. Their agenda is confused with the issues of the day. Their leaders espouse vocal support of things like a right to own a gun while all the world desperately needs of them is to embrace their right to love their neighbor.
Still others are defined by their application of Revelation 2-3. They look at Jesus’ proclamations of judgement and they say… “Wait a minute. Jesus isn’t judging First Baptist of San Diego any different that he is judging San Diego Church of the Nazarene or even the Diocese of San Diego… Jesus loves and judges us by where we live in community, not where we individually gather to worship.” And those churches are defined by the agenda of neighbors loving neighbors, churches loving churches, and sharing in the great love of their Savior in the L’agenda.
My prayer today for the bride of Christ is that we would be a people defined by our world-changing L’agenda for our neighbors and not the trappings of a religious life.