Sometimes Loving Your Neighbor Means Speaking Up & Doing Something {The Call of Jesus}

On Tuesday I shared a devotional on what it means to love your neighbor. I wrote many of those thoughts nearly a year ago, and it was my plan all summer to be posting about this particular topic this particular week.

I had no idea I’d spend this particular week seeing Jesus’ call to love our neighbor misquoted and misused so frequently. My social media feeds have seen quite a lot of push back this week to the outpouring of condemnation of the white supremacy and racism expressed in Charlottesville, NC over the weekend.

Listen, white pride rallies in 2017 are a lot to process. I get that. It was shocking and surprising to a lot of people (not many people of color, I’m guessing?) I was dismayed at the outbreak of violence, I was glad to see so many Christian friends calling the rally what it is (racism and a travesty of the Biblical understanding of each person made in God’s image), I was sad that Charlottesville was not mentioned or prayed about in my church on Sunday morning.

But what surprised me was the stream of friends and commenters, over the course of the week, saying that those who are speaking up against things like Charlottesville are part of the problem. I was surprised to hear that what we really need to do is shut up and love our neighbors.

Y’all, sometimes loving our neighbors means speaking up when someone is propagating hate against them.
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Love Your Neighbor As Yourself: A Devotional on the Great Commandment {The Call of Jesus}

 

 “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.  And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’  Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”  And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:30-37)

Which of the characters in this story do you identify with most?

The traveler left for dead, truly in need of a neighbor? The robbers who chose their own well-being at the expense of a fellow human? The priest and Levite, who prioritized their religious obligations and expectations over the needs of another? Or the Samaritan, the political outsider, shunned and avoided, who perhaps needed compassion himself, and so was able to extend it to another? Continue reading

HOW Do we “Love the Lord Our God With Our Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength”? {The Call of Jesus}

HOW Do we “Love the Lord Our God With Our Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength”? Jesus. The answer is (always) Jesus.

After rescuing the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, leading them out into the wilderness with Him, Yahweh bound Himself with the nation of Israel. He married Himself to His people. In later generations, when Israel was unfaithful and broke covenant with Yahweh, the prophets warned of coming judgment using the language of “harlotry”, comparing Israel to an unfaithful spouse.

Centuries later, when Jesus was asked by experts in the the Mosaic Law, what is the greatest commandment, the most important, it would not have surprised anyone to hear Him say, “To love God. To marry yourself to Him, to be faithful to Him, body, mind, heart, and soul.”

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31)

Loving God – heart, soul, mind, and strength – was the mark of God’s people, it was what set them apart, the way in which they were to make their mark in the world. This, Jesus says, is the primary value in the Kingdom of God: To know that Yahweh is one, and there is no god besides Him, and to love God with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself.

Historically, Israel was NOT faithful to their covenant with Yahweh – which was, of course – not a surprise to Yahweh.

In Deuteronomy 30:6 there’s a promise, “Moreover, Yahweh your God will CIRCUMCISE your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.”

In order to love God heart, soul, mind, and strength, Israel would need “circumcised hearts.”

Centuries after Moses, Jeremiah the Prophet would explain this circumcision of heart, crying out

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33)

The New Covenant would bring a NEW heart.

Generations after Jeremiah, Jesus would stand before His disciples at the Passover supper and break bread and pour out wine, again using covenant language.

We don’t recognize it, but the disciples at the last supper would have recognized what Jesus was doing from the marriage, covenant ceremony. Continue reading

The Call of Jesus: Love the Lord Your God With Your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31)

In the church, we refer to this as The Great Commandment.

In the Great commandment, Jesus is quoting the foundation of Hebrew Law. When Yahweh came down in the time of Moses and joined Himself to the Hebrew people – binding Himself to them and them to Him in a COVENANT – He said:

Deuteronomy 6:4-5   “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

This is the Shema, and Deuteronomy 6 goes on to instruct God’s people to put these words on their hearts, their hands, foreheads, doorposts & gates. They were to teach the Shema – the Lord is ONE and we are to love God with all we are and have – to their children as they were sitting, walking, lying down, rising up. Jews throughout history have taken these commands seriously.

The Shema was repeated throughout the days, months, and years of a faithful Jew’s life, as a PRAYER, as spiritual formation, and as a reminder.

Because this is the primary mark of God’s people: Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is One. Love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

What does it mean to love God with one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength? Continue reading

How On Earth Do We Make Ourselves at Home in God’s Love? {The Call of Jesus}

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5, NASB)

Jesus calls us to abide, to remain in Him. This is the way to LIFE, to fruitfulness, to seeing God’s goodness grow in our own lives, in our husband’s and kids’ and neighbors’ lives, to see His goodness, His Kingdom come in our neighborhoods and churches and cities…

Jesus calls us to abide. To remain. To stay. To live in His love.

And now we get to my BIG QUESTION, which I’ve been asking for years, and veeeerrrrryyyy slowly finding answers to…

HOW? Continue reading

The Call of Jesus: Remain in His Love

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5, NASB)

I have loved John 15 for years, but just realized I tend to see this portion of John’s story like a collection of loosely related essays. It’s actually a narrative, one story. And I don’t think it’s an accident that we find this section on ABIDING sandwiched between the Bible’s two greatest teachings on the Holy Spirit.

John 14:16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

Before Jesus calls His followers to abide or remain with Him… He’s promised His spirit to remain and be with Them.

As a young Christian, I learned to articulate my faith story as “I invited Christ into my life”. But I’m learning that God is the GREAT INITIATOR.

He ALWAYS goes first. He is inviting ME. Continue reading

The Call of Jesus: Come to Me and Learn REST

“Come to Me, (JESUS SAYS) all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11)

I have always understood this invitation “come to Me and I will give you rest” by itself, as if Jesus is saying “Come to me, TAKE A NAP. I’ll do everything else.” And Jesus has done it ALL. All our spiritual needs are met in Him. The search is over. When we find Jesus, we’ve found God. And there’s nothing wrong with a good nap.

But a spiritual nap is not what Jesus is promising here. Because to find the promised REST, we have to “take His yoke upon us and learn from Him”. Continue reading

The Call of Jesus: Come to Me and Learn to be a Daughter or Son

“Come to Me, (JESUS SAYS) all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

We step into Matthew’s story as Jesus is addressing the crowds. Earlier in Matthew 11, Jesus received messengers from His cousin John the Baptist, in prison and wondering if Jesus is indeed the Messiah (spoiler alert: He is).

Then Jesus denounces the cities where He performed miracles because they saw Him and did not recognize Him.

Those near Jesus, who saw Him perform miraculous healing did not all believe and respond to Him.

So Jesus breaks into prayer:

“I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.  Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.  All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

The wise and intelligent (religious leaders) couldn’t receive the things of God in the package of Jesus. Here in Matthew, Jesus is saying, “If you can’t see who Father is in Me, then you can’t see the Father.”

When Jesus talks about knowing His Father, He’s not talking about book learning, a life of studying about the Father.

He learned what His Father was like the way every child understands her parents: not by studying books , but by living His life with Him. Jesus learned what His Father was like by listening for his voice, and learning from him.

A son learns to be like his father by living in His father’s house, by growing up with him.

So as the Son, the One who best knows the Father’s heart, Jesus makes this invitation:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Jesus is inviting us to come and learn. And the first thing we learn from Jesus is SONSHIP. This is the yoke of Jesus, the yoke of Sonship, of a dearly beloved child.

If I’m not functioning as one dearly beloved of the Father, then I’m not functioning out of the yoke of Jesus.

If our view of the Father doesn’t match up with the love demonstrated by Jesus, who said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”? Then we’re not functioning out of the yoke of Jesus.

I learned and am still learning to lay down the old yoke, my old ways of being OK in the world. And I am learning (slowly, day by day) to come to Jesus and let Him teach me the way of sonship, the way of the Beloved of the Father. I am learning to be a daughter. The way of the Beloved.

This is the way of rest. And it is good.

Come to Me and Learn to be a daughter quote (1)

Over the next few weeks, I’m sharing my own lessons and thoughts from a Bible study I wrote with my friend Stacey and did with a group of (amazing) women last Fall. This 8 week study, The Call of Jesus, is available for free here or by clicking the “Free Bible Studies and Resources” link in my blog header. If you’re looking for a Bible study to do yourself or with friends this Fall, check it out!

The Call of Jesus: Come to Me and LEARN a New Way

Growing up my value system was unknowingly ruled by 3 main things, 3 ways I managed life in order to know that I was OK.

Reputation. I was a hard worker, not for the sake of achievement or because I valued excellence really, but because I valued being thought well of. I was driven by reputation.

Relationship.  I felt good about myself because of who my friends were. And I was a good and caring friend – sometimes at the expense of my own needs, and in spite of my better judgment. I was a good and caring friend so that people would like me. Because I needed them to be my friend, I needed them to like me, I needed to be needed.

Responsibility. As the oldest child in a split and blended family, I felt responsible for everyone. I was aware that the younger ones were watching, that I was expected to be a good influence. I was always aware of my responsibility. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I see: I thought I could overcome the hurt and pain and unpredictability in our family for myself, my siblings, even my parents, by the power of my own responsibility and reliability. W

This was my value system, my way of managing life and being OK: Reputation, Relationship and Responsibility (and I was much better at being responsible for others than I was for myself.) That is how I was OK in the world.

Then, halfway through college, I met Jesus. I fell head over heels in love with Him. He filled up empty spaces I didn’t even know I had.

For years, this is how I shared my story: Before Jesus, I found safety, security, LIFE in relationships & reputation. But then I met Jesus and learned to find safety, security, life in Him.

I had been a Christian and telling this story for over 10 years before I realized it was a lie. Continue reading

New Resource Available: The Call of Jesus (an 8 week study on the commands of Jesus in the Gospels)

As I mentioned here, this summer I’ve been working on getting some of the Bible study curriculum I’ve written for my local church and college ministry formatted and share-able so that I can make it available for others to use.

Now available here and under the “Free Bible Studies and Resources” tab:

FullSizeRender (1)The Call of Jesus: An 8 Week Bible Study focused on Jesus’ Commands in the Gospels

This is one my favorite studies I have written or participated in, I just love it. For 8 weeks set aside time to look at Jesus, listen to His words, and ask what He is inviting you to right here in your real life. Continue reading