In our quest for bigger and better, for success and validation, for finding what “works” and what will propel us forward into a neighboring movement, it can be easy for church leaders to corrupt the words of Jesus.
Corrupt?? Oh boy! This is getting juicy! Keep reading!
In talking to the religious leader inquiring about the greatest commandment, Jesus said so beautifully and purely, “The most important one,” answered Jesus, is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 ESV)
Jesus’ words are good and right and perfect. Nothing needs to be added. But for some reason, what Jesus meant for developing and sharing pure and unadulterated love in us, we twist for our own gain. We can’t leave it at love. Something has to come out of it. We need a better ROI (return on investment) than just love. And so, we add to his words. Granted, most of the time we do this without even knowing.
When we use Jesus words we add to them like this: “Love the Lord with all you’ve got and love your neighbor as yourself…..so that more people will come to our local expression of the church.” Or we might use more suitable phrases, like, “so that we will reach more people” or “so that the Kingdom of God is expanded.” However, because of the nature of the gather-and-retain organizations we lead, the later phrases do not revel the whole story. For some reason, we can’t settle for reaching people or building the Kingdom, period. We must build our kingdoms, our organizations, our churches……and frankly, that screws everything up and sends us to all kinds of funky places.
Consider these closing exhortations from Paul to the church in Philippi,”Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 ESV)
Now consider this question:How can we apply our thinking and our practice of the Greatest Commandment in the most true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise ways?
The way we answer this question will define us as leaders and disciple-makers. The answer will define our organizations. Even more so, the way we answer this question will define the kind of disciples we are making and sending into our communities. The implications are bigger than we allow ourselves to fathom. Our witness to the world demands this ongoing conversation.