As I survey social media this week, I am cut to the heart. A lot of people are up in arms about some recent events within the body of Christ. He said, she said…or something like that. Oh, it isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last, but what are Christians to do? What should we be up in arms about?
Amidst the array of divisive topics within the church (and there are plenty), where do we draw a line in the sand and declare what really matters? I’m glad you asked.
In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus clears a few things up for us. He said,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.”
He declared this to be of utmost importance.
He followed with,
“Love your neighbor as yourself.“
He said that the second command is like the first. Both not only matter, but are the foundation upon which all other commandments are built. Love God and love people.
Honestly, when I survey American christianity (my own included), I am disheartened. For many, this “faith” is relegated to warming a seat in a local church building each week. Many believers are plagued with an unquenched desire for bigger, better, and more material possessions. We often seek prestige, power, and authority. We are quite busy with our own agendas. We give a solemn nod to the atrocities of our world, a dollar to the homeless guy at the intersection, and a short, “I’ll be praying for you” at church before quickly moving on to the next scheduled event in our lives.
Oh, but the way of Jesus is quite different than the self-preserving, self-gratifying, self-propelling ways of this world.
Jesus admonishes pride and exalts humility (Matthew 23:12).
Jesus values purity of heart, integrity, and sacrificial love (Matthew 5).
Jesus tells us to never stop seeking and living out the way of our heavenly Father (Matthew 7).
Jesus honors the one with unabashed and unhindered faith in Him (Matthew 8).
Jesus tells us to be willing to lay aside our very life (literally, for some of us) and exchange it for the true life found only in Him (Matthew 10:38-39, 16:24-26).
Jesus taught that true and limitless forgiveness for one another is the mark of a follower of His (Matthew 18:21-35).
Jesus delivers the harsh truth about earthly possessions. He admonishes those who pursue and place a high value on the material things of this world, rather than the ultimate treasure found in Him (Matthew 19:16-30).
Jesus rebukes those who seek status and power. He chastises those who showcase their piety through religious tradition, yet neglect the more important matters of justice, mercy, and faith. Jesus detests the one whose exterior is shiny but heart is caked in rust (Matthew 23).
Jesus will separate those who serve and love, from the ones who do not. He doesn’t mince words when he says the ones who will be blessed by the Father are the ones who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, and encourage the imprisoned (Matthew 25:31-46).
This barely scratches the surface, but there is a pattern all throughout scripture. James summarizes it well:
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”James 1:27
Can and should we wrestle with peripheral topics? Sure, we can wrestle with scripture, have meaningful dialogue, and graciously seek understanding. Don’t mishear me. We should value sound doctrine and always use the utmost of care in our handling of the gospel. There are foundational truths that, if altered or misrepresented, would change the message altogether. Jesus preached repentance from sin (Matthew 3:8, 4:17; Luke 5:31-32), affirmed His deity (John 8:19, 10:30), and taught that the one way to the Father is through Him (John 14:6). His death and resurrection summed it all up, and our faith hinges on these very important matters (1 Corinthians 15). No matter how culture changes, we should hold fast to this gospel, or it is no gospel at all.
But in light of the good news of Jesus, I challenge you…me…all of us. Spend time with someone who has great need. Look into the eyes of a person grieving great loss or suffering in a way you could not possibly understand. Then tell me what matters more. A non-gospel altering controversy within the walls of the church, or the charge to lay down our own lives to care for the least of these? Truthfully, it’s quite easy to get caught up in things that matter less when we are sitting high, rather than stooping low. What is your posture before the Lord and people?
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?Micah 6:8
So, go home, but take a look around as you go. Go out. Do what matters most. Do not forsake the gospel. Let’s get up in arms over the number of people who are hungry and broken. Let’s get up in arms over the great need around us and the number of Christians who race by in pursuit of the world. You don’t need to hop a plane to a third-world country (though you could) to find hurting and hungry people in need of food and a Savior. You don’t need a pulpit to share the wonderful news of Jesus. Look around. Listen. Stoop low. You’ll find the ones in need. You’ll find the ones who are hungry for good news.
Love and serve both God and people.
Jesus was quite clear on what matters most.