Christianity isn’t about figuring out how to get Jesus to consent to me being a jerk to someone else. My calling is clear: In this life, I don’t get to play God, I get to imitate Jesus. John Pavlovitz, Stuff That Needs To Be Said
I’m doing my best to get back to basics. What exactly is it that we, as followers of Jesus, are supposed to be.
It’s not about the doing, because doing comes from the being. And I can’t separate my actions and my words and my thoughts from who I am in Jesus. And that’s the rub. How do I distinguish who I am in the Truth of Jesus from who I think I’m supposed to be (or who others think I’m supposed to be based on their interpretation of who they’ve decided Jesus is supposed to be)?
I’ve been prompted this week to reread the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapters 5-7) – to study in earnest those red letter words of our Savior, and along with those words read the biblical commentary in a few different Bible versions. And then ask the Holy Spirit for clarification. I truly want to know not just what Jesus said, but what he meant.
Too often I hear his words used to accuse, to frighten, to push away, to exclude. As I examine these words, I am more and more certain this is not how Jesus intended them. When I consider who he used them with and the actions that followed – breaking bread, healing, teaching – my attention is drawn to his deliberate compassion and mercy.
Every time someone uses the words of Jesus as a hammer, I want to use them as I contemplate they were meant – as inspiration to see the heart of the Father. As a way to lift someone’s eyes to see hope. As a vehicle to connect. As a way to love people into the kingdom of God. As a promise of a new relationship surrounded by eternal love and grace and mercy.
There is much discussion over spiritual warfare – exponentially more than discussions of love. Yet Jesus spoke much more of love than war. And the apostle John reminds us starkly on which to focus:
By this it is evident who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:1 (emphasis mine)
Jesus also spoke about unity among believers. I am certain he did not anticipate the numerous denominations of Christianity in the world. He said, “I am the vine and you are the branches; if you remain in me and I in you, you will produce much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” He spoke of One Vine; Himself. We’ve become so caught up in the fight for our belief systems we end up worshiping our beliefs about what we believe more than we worship the One who is at the heart of our transformation. As a result, we turn people away from the Vine.
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:20-21 (emphasis mine)
We all need to get back to basics. So I issue a challenge.
This week, gather together at least two Bibles – different versions with commentaries. Throw out all your preconceived notions. Make the time to read and study Matthew Chapters five, six and seven. Open your heart to the words of Jesus. Refresh your relationship with Him.
Let Him transform your heart and mind.