While choosing not to shift gears so late in the week in order to redirect our comments toward reflections on the historical events associated with the passing of Queen Elizabeth, it would be inappropriate not to acknowledge it. For now, though, we simply join our hearts and our prayers with the millions who mourn the loss of this incredible monarch. We may have more to say in response to these events in an upcoming post, but for now, we simply encourage prayers for the United Kingdom’s leadership, both those in the monarchy and in the civil government, as well as all those in Britain and around the world who loved and respected her.
In the meantime, we’re following up with additional thoughts below on last week’s post.
I feel compelled not to totally leave the core idea of last week’s article, But What’s the “Main” Thing?, without highlighting an addendum or two. Unfortunately, that plan kicked in flashbacks of a TV commercial that rates higher than average on my “Stuff I Find Irritating” scale. It’s one that features some guy yelling non-stop for what seems like half an hour about his indestructible skillet. He bangs on it with hammers, throws rocks and metal junk in it, freezes it and then tries to melt it with a blow torch. Then, just when you think it’s finally over, the skillet guy gets a fresh dose of adrenalin and shouts, “But wait! There’s more!”
More to Consider ~
Given how I generally react when I hear that phrase on TV, using it as a way to introduce today’s post might not have been the best idea I ever had, but there is, indeed, more to consider about Stephen Covey’s admonition than we had the space to include last week. His conclusion that “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing” can be transformational. But as we attempted to illustrate last week, its benefits are predicated on what we choose as the “main thing” in our lives. And to remind us again, Jesus declared that all the commandments and ordinances God gave can be encompassed in one directive expressed in the context of two relationships:
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37–40 NKJV)
We highlighted last week how vital it is for us to be pursuing a “main thing” that has enduring value in this world and eternal benefits in the next one. Love, in the context that Jesus presented it, certainly fulfills both of those objectives, but again, some qualification might be helpful. Like we discovered regarding Covey’s statement, there’s more to be considered. That’s especially true in our day when it comes to love. We live at a time when the concept of “love” has been systematically abused and mutilated. The term has been twisted beyond recognition and perverted to fit unparalleled depths of human depravity. The word love has been stripped of the power God invested in it and rendered virtually meaningless by a culture obsessed with using it as a manipulative tool.
Definitions Needed ~
So, to simply say that the main thing in life is to love does sound great, and it’s a good place to start. To further declare that our love should be directed primarily toward God and our neighbor seems to wrap it up nicely. These things aren’t hard to say. They sound really profound and look good in our creeds and personal mottos, but defining what they really mean may not be so easy. Dealing with love as God intended and demonstrated it can be challenging. There are actually some things we need to get “out of the way” as we begin the process. For instance:
- We must free the term, love, from its religious shackles, its ecclesiastical and traditional trappings, and from its ties to credentialed professionals with impressive sounding titles. Love doesn’t just live behind stained glass windows and architectural buildings designated as “churches”.
- Then we must turn in a different direction and break out some heavy duty cleanser. Love has to be scrubbed clean of decades of Hollywood filth that obscures what it’s really meant to be.
- Once that’s done, we also need to relieve it from the constraints of pleasant sounding but pragmatically empty poetic fantasies.
- Then we need to rescue it from the psychological and philosophical laboratories of academia where love has been turned into a mass of mental and emotional PlayDoh.
So, if love is to be the main thing in our lives, we need to be careful to determine whether what we’re pursuing is really what we think it is.
Spiritual Grammar Issues ~
As I’ve gotten older, one of the things that has become much clearer is that I’ve been guilty of unconsciously making “grammatical errors in the spiritual realm”. I’ve been treating some terms as nouns when God intended them to be treated as verbs. Faith is one of those terms. We frequently use the word to describe what we believe. We often hear people refer to someone as a “person of faith.” Encouraging others to have “faith” in Jesus is an admirable thing, and many of us have done that hundreds of times. What we mean is that they should believe in who He is or what He taught. The truth is that faith is not just a verbal statement. It’s a call to action. It may be vocally declared, but if it isn’t visibly demonstrated, it’s meaningless. Love is like that, too.
Let me share one of the most powerful questions I’ve ever asked myself . . . How much difference would it make in my life if I started treating faith and love not as nouns, but as verbs? How much difference would it make if the things I claim to believe and the love I claim to have could only be expressed and defined by what I do? That is not a radical idea. It’s a Biblical idea. Consider a few examples:
Jesus said; If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 14:15 NKJV)
But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:17 NKJV)
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18 NKJV)
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:2–3 NKJV)
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:18–20 NKJV)
No Fruit – No Value ~
If the love and faith that we declare to be the main things in our lives produce no visible evidence, require no personal sacrifice, and create no measurable “good”, then they are like telling a cold, hungry man to go away and be warmed and filled . . . and offering nothing. I’m afraid we’re lacking in this country what we’ve been lacking for far too long in many of our churches. We’ve been impressed by the eloquent sermons and we’ve sung our inspirational songs. We’ve heard the mighty, living verbs spoken from the mouth of God, but instead of defining them with our behavior, we’ve stripped them of their power and turned them into passive, empty, impotent nouns.
Let me leave you with something my favorite Bible expositor loves to say, “Holiness isn’t the absence of something, it’s the presence of something.” The impact God wants us to have in the world isn’t achieved by pointing out the things we no longer do. We don’t impress others with messages about the sins we no longer commit. God had a more positive strategy in mind. He sent His Son to show the world what redemption looks like, how love behaves, and how faith lives and moves.
For 2,000 years, Jesus’ followers have seen lives transformed, souls redeemed, and entire cultures reshaped by doing what He did. They kept the main thing, the main thing. And now . . . it’s our turn.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “How much difference would it make if the things I claim to believe and the love I claim to have could only be expressed and defined by what I do? That is not a radical idea. It’s a Biblical idea.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “If the love & faith we declare to be the main things in our lives produce no visible evidence, require no personal sacrifice & create no measurable “good”, it’s like telling a cold, hungry man to go away, be warmed & filled & offer nothing.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “We’ve heard the mighty, living verbs spoken from the mouth of God, but instead of defining them with our behavior, we’ve stripped them of their power and turned them into passive, empty, impotent nouns.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Holiness isn’t the absence of something, it’s the presence of something.” The impact God wants us to have in the world isn’t achieved by pointing out the things we no longer do. God had a more positive strategy in mind.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “We don’t impress others with messages about the sins we no longer commit. God had a more positive strategy in mind. He sent His Son to show the world what redemption looks like, how love behaves, and how faith lives and moves.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “For 2,000 years, Jesus’ followers have seen lives transformed, souls redeemed, and entire cultures reshaped by doing what He did. They kept the main thing, the main thing. Now it’s our turn.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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