Lately, I’ve been reminded of how we, as Christians, often get it wrong. We miss the point.
You know, Jesus tried to make things pretty simple for us. The challenge from Jesus was this…”You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, CEB). In addition to loving God, Jesus extends the challenge and adds in this…”You must love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:39, CEB).
Jesus gives us two “simple” rules. Love God and love one another. Jesus goes so far as to say that all the law and prophets are summed up in these two great commandments. It’s really pretty clear.
Two rules…And, yet, we still get it wrong.
We are called to love God and love one another. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to get these right. There are days when loving God is extremely difficult. So, if loving the God I believe to be complete and perfect is difficult at times, imagine how difficult it is to love others (who are far from complete and perfect).
However, each day, I give it my best shot. Of course, I rarely get it right. But, I’m not afraid to admit that. I fail to completely love God and neighbor. And, you won’t hear me make an excuse for my inability to love God and others. I’ll own up to it because I’m convinced that Jesus would not call us to do something that we are incapable of doing.
The way I’ve been reminded of how often we get it wrong is in our inability to own up to the fact that we may not have all the answers…that we too are simply figuring this out as we journey through this life.
We get it wrong when we choose to be judgmental. We get it wrong when we choose to make others feel guilty and convicted instead of loved. We get it wrong when we choose hatred over tolerance. We get it wrong when we attempt to justify these behaviors.
Too often, I have heard Christians claim that they are “loving others” by condemning them. We get it wrong when we fail to remember that we are called to deal with the “log” in our own eye before addressing the tiny “splinter” in our brother or sister’s eye (see Matthew 7).
I’m convinced that we might be getting it horribly wrong when we say we “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” That is placing conditions on our love for our neighbors. We’re basically saying that we cannot fully love and accept another until they become like us. Jesus didn’t say “love the sinner, hate the sin”…He said, “love God” and “love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
We get it wrong when we ignore the needs of the least, the last, and the lost (see Matthew 25). We get it wrong when we are so focused on how sinful everyone else is that we fail to love others by helping meet their very basic needs (clean water, food, clothing, health care). We get it wrong when we focus on elephants in the room instead of Jesus.
We get it wrong when we are harsh. We get it wrong when we are self-righteous. We get it wrong when we adopt the “I am right and everyone else is wrong” attitude. We are told that the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (see Galatians 5). We get it wrong when we are anything other than loving, joy-filled, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-control. We get it wrong when we lack compassion for our fellow humans…or for any of creation.
Some might say, “Well, read the words of Paul. He was harsh. He was kind of judgmental.” This is another way in which we get it wrong. We take Paul’s words out of context. We use them to justify our unChrist-like behaviors. We forget that Paul was addressing a very specific group of people at a very specific time and place. We forget that, in reality, Paul’s harsh tone (much like Jesus’) was reserved for the pious religious group that attempted to exclude people by imposing unnecessary rules and regulations on “outsiders”. When Paul was harsh, he was attempting to get “religious” people to follow Christ – a man whose message focused on love, mercy, grace, compassion, and forgiveness…not on judgment, hatred, and guilt.
So, I am reminded that too often I get it wrong. I am reminded that too often, many of my Christian brothers and sisters get it wrong.
And, I am reminded that it’s probably time that we start being honest about it. We get it wrong. We are imperfect people attempting to do our best to follow the Way of Christ.