She had that frustrated look. “How do you keep track of it, or find a way to grasp it all?” Jennifer was asking about all the rules, commandments, and instructions present in the Bible. Jen was an individual with a sincere faith. She wanted to make sure her life reflected that faith. Of course, she was not the first person to ask such a question.
Over the summer months the worship at our church focused on some of the Old Testament patriarchs, their call, and their witness. We also related these accounts to some of the central teachings of the gospels. One of the persons we examined was Jacob. He was running for his life when God spoke to him through a dream. In this encounter, God reaffirmed the covenant that had been made with his grandfather, Abraham, and his father, Isaac. The majority of people who are even slightly familiar with this covenant can name the first two elements. God promises a home (land) and many descendants (see Genesis 28:13-14). However, there is a third element we often overlook: “And all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.” How is it we so often overlook this element, that God’s people are blessed in order that we can be used to bless others?
That certainly has to be a key element as to whether or not we are living as God’s faithful people: Is my life and all that God has entrusted to me being used in such a way that others are blessed? But that’s a big job. After all, once I’ve taken care of my own needs, there may not be much left. And my life is already pretty busy. How do I try and tackle something like this?
We find help in one of the other great characters of the Old Testament, Moses. Like most of us, when Moses experienced God’s call, he was hesitant. He argued with God that he was not up to the job. God already knew that. But this wasn’t about Moses. It was about God. And God provided an answer that we hear over and over again in the scriptures: “I will be with you (Exodus 3:12).” Whatever God asks of us, we have the promise that we never have to do it alone. We are not promised that what God asks of us is easy, or that life will be easy. We are promised that our God will be with us. We are never left alone or to our own resources.
But how do we distill all this down to something we can keep with us and remember? How do we carry something that we can truly focus on? Jesus himself was asked which, of all the commandments, was the greatest (see Matthew 22:34-40). He answered that there were actually two which made up the greatest commandment: Love God with all you are, and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus further stated that all the laws of our faith and all we learn from the prophets depend on this.
Do you have trouble living your life in a way that truly makes a difference? Do you worry about whether or not your life reflects the faith you profess? All of us struggle with that. But what a great help it is to have a central focus, such as Jesus gave us.
What difference would it make in our community if we lived as though every blessing in our lives is given to enable us to be a blessing to our neighbors? Both those we like and those we really would rather not have to deal with. How would it be more doable if we recalled that it doesn’t depend on how smart we are or how strong we are, but that we take seriously God’s promise always to be with us? And what difference would it make to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind as well as loving our neighbor as our self? You know, you cannot separate these two. They are interdependent. To love your neighbor as yourself has been explained as being just as committed to pursuing the well-being of your neighbor as you are to pursuing your own well-being.
I don’t know about you, but some of my neighbors can be pretty hard to love. I need the resources of a God who has promised to always be present; to lead, guide, and provide the necessary resources for me to love people who are really hard to love.
Now, what difference would it make in our nation and in our world if we were a community dedicated to these biblical principles? You know, being a blessing to others, relying on an ever-present God, and actively loving our God and our neighbor with all we are?
As I reflect back over the years since Jennifer posed her question, I see in her a commitment to living out a vibrant, loving relationship with our God. I am confident in describing her life as Christ-centered, giving, and joyous. It is when I realize the possibility for all of us to live such a committed life that I have hope for our strife-torn world.