Love God, Love Your Neighbor…

Everything else is bullshit.  I know that may not sit well with some of you, but if Stanley Hauerwas can say it, I figure I’m in good company.  Besides, it grabs your attention and makes an emphatic point.  That point being that we’ve made the Christian faith entirely too complicated.  Every time I turn around, somebody’s got something else I’m supposed to do if I’m a Christian (or not do.  There’s a lot of negativity floating around these days).  Don’t listen to that music, don’t read those books, be sure to tithe, etc.  Jesus had a different take on things.  In Luke chapter 10, the story goes like this:

Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”

 He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”

 He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself. 

  “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”

So, salvation is about loving God and loving my neighbor.  A lot of people are hung up on the 10 Commandments and the Law.  But, here’s the thing: if you’re loving your neighbor, you won’t be doing any of the stuff that’s proscribed there.  Nor will you be using hateful speech against people whose sexual preference is different from yours; you won’t be passing judgment on those you consider sinners; you’ll be eager to help those less fortunate than yourself and the list goes on.  But, it all boils down to love God, love your neighbor, that’s it.  Nothing to it, right?  Well, just keep reading, Sparky.

On the surface, the whole thing sounds simple, even easy.  Maybe, but that’s deceptive.  Following those four simple words can be the hardest thing you’ll ever try to do.  Because it seems that while you’re trying to show that love, your neighbor is going out of his (or her) way to be as unlovable as humanly possible. I used to hate sermons on this subject, because I knew the coming week was going to be filled with idiots going out of their way to piss me off.  No matter how hard I tried, I still reacted in a distinctly unChristlike manner.  One day, I had an epiphany and I realized what the whole “grace” thing was about: It is impossible for me to do this on my own, I can’t be that good.  Then, I read this in Steve Brown’s book  A Scandalous Freedom,”The only people who get better are people who know that, if they never get better, GOD WILL LOVE THEM ANYWAY… God will not only love you if you don’t get better, He’ll teach you that getting better isn’t the issue; His love is the issue” and “I’m getting better by not trying so hard to be better… when I stopped working so hard at being better and turned to Jesus, that’s when, almost without noticing it, I started getting just a little bit better”.  So, I gave up trying to be good (or “better” to fit with the quote) and let God have it.  Slowly, subtly, I’m starting to get better.  I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m better.  And, I kind of like it.