I’ve been having some serious talks with Jesus. Well, it’s been mostly me lamenting to Him about the plight of the world (not that He needs my input, but, still…).
Why do so many people– followers of You included– still encounter so much hurt and pain in this life?
Why do so many people find themselves feeling alone?
Yes, I include myself among the so many people. And, no, I do not consider myself and my experience in the world as a special case. Hurt is everywhere.
Why is hurt still everywhere?
I’ve read the book of Acts, many times over, and I see in my mind’s eye what the power of the Spirit can do in faith communities. So, why is it that such powerful faith communities are so rare today? Is not the same Spirit at work among us now?
I believe that if the same Spirit was at work in every church proclaiming Christ, the world would be a very different place.
Instead, the world is as evil and self-absorbed as its ever been. It still hurts. People still use and abuse other human beings (and Nature) out of their own hurt, and the cycle continues.
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”
Like 11:42 (NRSV, boldface mine)
Now I see.
I see how futile our tithes and offerings and teachings and programs and ministries can be. We cannot affect change when we believe that the content of what we say is more important than the spirit in which we say it.
“For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power.”
1 Corinthians 4:20 (NRSV)
The kingdom of God is not found through logic or reason. It is not found between the pages of a Bible. Nor is it accessed through asceticism or piety or good works. The kingdom of God is found through our relationship with the Person of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit:
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'”
John 14:6 (NRSV)
Unless we ourselves have entered into this miraculous reality, we ought to be pouring all of our resources into doing so! We can affect nothing, change nothing apart from the power and reality of Him. Every human need can be met in this way:
“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 6:33 (NRSV)
Isn’t this how God works? Taking us (read: me) from believing we can be the saviors of the world to the realization that we ourselves still need saving?
And then I think maybe my salvation, in and of itself, isn’t what I should be concerned about at this point. Clearly, I can’t save myself. What I can do, is continually strive to know better the only One that can.
But what about the others? Where do they fit in?
This is important here, so, hear me out–Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with every part of ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). The whole ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ thing comes after this one.
Can we love our neighbor, or ourselves, if we do not wholly love God?
No. I do not believe we can. Every relationship we have– with our own self and with others– rests solely upon the foundation of our own relationship to God.
I feel a peculiar sympathy for God. This world that He created, then came to live within and die for, still struggles to find love in their hearts for the Source of all they have and are.
I don’t think it’s right to hold God responsible for the plight of the world… He’s doing all He can to restore what humanity has broken. We are just opposed to the things He desires for us to cultivate in ourselves: humility, justice, and mercy (Micah 6:8). God’s Love is all these things!
The hurt I see in the world tempts me to rail against God… but my lack of love for God accomplishes nothing.
I am called to look past my own hurt, and the hurt around me, and look only to Him in love– finding myself in Him and His power. The rest will fall into place.