Hey everyone, Tim here.
I hope this letter finds you well. If you've been following our current series, "Undercover Boss" (catch up HERE), you may remember one of the Scriptures Pastor Chris talked about this past Sunday. Hosea 6:6 reads:
"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings."
Pastor Chris talked about this in context of how we often try to follow certain "rules" about relating to God - trying to please God with our "holiness" and rituals - while we seem to forget the "law of love" we are supposed to follow when relating to each other. As he mentioned when talking about offering sacrifices to get the gods on our side, we often think that pleasing God is the highest calling and that it should be done at whatever cost to anyone else (even to the point of "sacrificing humans" - i.e. neglecting others).
Now it's true that Jesus said loving God with everything we are should be the number one priority of our lives. However, he didn't finish his answer there. He went on to say that loving our neighbors (everybody else in this world) was the second piece of the pie. And it is these two priorities - loving God and loving neighbors - that sum up the law and the prophets (or, sum up everything God has been trying to tell humanity from the beginning). Jesus didn't say that loving God with everything would fulfill all the purpose of creation, he said that loving God with everything we are AND loving our neighbor would institute the creation God intended.
So here we are with a conundrum: How can we give everything to God, and still have some room left for our neighbors? "Everything" sounds to me like, well like EVERYTHING; how can there be anything left after everything is being used?
The apostle John said it this way: "If anyone boasts, 'I love God,' and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won't love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can't see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You've got to love both." (1 John 4:20-21).
So back to Hosea at the beginning of this note, God is pleased and loved most when we are loving and giving ourselves for others. God desires right relationships between ALL aspects and members of creation. It's not about appeasing God at the expense of everyone and everything else. It's about serving and loving ALL creation at the expense of our pride and selfishness. This is how we please God.
So, as Pastor Chris said, during this Lenten season, don't focus so much on "giving things up for God" - like God would actually be happy if we stopped eating chocolate... Focus instead on giving things up for love. Let's give up our self-centeredness, our bitterness and anger, let's give up our jealousy and pity, our gluttony and gossip. These are things that truly bring glory to God. Let's give up all the things that make this world a worse place and trade them for those things worthy of our calling in Christ:
"Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."
Be well. Love all. And have another piece of chocolate!