Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Starting and the beginning or first things first

Today's thoughts are at least loosely related to today's gospel passage from the daily lectionary (which can be found here:  )  
In the passage from Luke 11, Jesus is railing against the Pharisee's and the Lawyers (who were not akin to lawyers today, but rather religious teachers - like seminary professors)  And basically what is going on is that Jesus is accusing them of using their knowledge of the Scripture as a weight to drag people down instead of helping them.  He is accusing them of keeping all the laws and regulations except the most important one(s) - Love and Justice.  Essentially he is accusing them of missing the point.
Before I go any further, I think it is important to point something out because I feel like a lot of people either miss it or intentionally ignore it.  When it comes to following the rules, rules of faith or laws or whatever, many Christians point to Jesus emphasis on love as an excuse for not following the rules or as license to dismiss the rules.  
I truly believe this misses the point, albeit in the opposite direction, as well.  People making these arguments (and I have often been one of these 'people') usually say something like, ' I would rather err on the side of love'.  The point, I think, is that Jesus would rather you not err at all.  Jesus isn't saying love - especially love however we choose to define it - is the only thing to be concerned with.  Rather, Jesus is saying that love is the first step.  
In following Christ and living into the lives that God has called us too, love is the essential first step.  It is the beginning.  
It is not where we are supposed to stop, however.  Right there in Luke 11, Jesus makes this point clear, in his claim against the Pharisee's:   42"But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. 
It seems to me that 'without neglecting the others' is a pretty important part of what Jesus is saying here.  
Love of God and the concern for God's justice that organically flows from that love is the starting point for our life with God, because without loving God then we can't begin to actually follow God or God's commands for our lives.  
It is so disheartening to me when Jesus and 'love' get used as a reason for ignoring the way God is calling us to live.  Why?  Because I think when we do that - and I know I certainly do it sometimes.  We come dangerously close to missing the 'point' completely.  If we try to appropriate God's love as a license for approving any and all of our actions I don't think we have an understanding of that love at all.
If our love of God does not at least lead us to a desire to live a life more in line with the call and commandments of God, then maybe we don't really love God at all and maybe we are just rebelling against the Pharisee's rules and looking to replace them with our own.  

That isn't just ''missing the point' it is not following God and exactly what Jesus was urging the  Pharisee's and lawyers to repent from.  
The interesting thing about the Pharisee's and the lawyers that Jesus indicts is that it isn't that they were wrong in trying to follow the rules they were upholding - its that they were vigilant for those laws for the wrong reason.  God calls us to be vigorous in following him and his commandments because of our love for him and our desire to be faithful to him.  The Pharisee's were vigorous in upholding the laws because it was a means to gaining and retaining power in the social construct of the time.  
So 2000 years later we still have Pharisee's and lawyers and we still have those rebelling against their laws.  The question for those on both sides of whatever issue is what are you after and what is your motivation?  Are you looking to gain power or retain power in the social constructs of our day (either in our churches, our communities or our country) or are you actively seeking after God's love and the justice that flow from it?
Jesus calls us to love first.  But the love that Jesus calls us to must naturally lead us to a desire and active attempt to be faithful in living a life according to God's call and commands.  

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