Most Spiritual Thing
You Can Ever Do
When we think about spirituality we think about a person who quietly prays and meditates introspectively, watching each step of his walk with God. We believe this person also attends church, reads the Bible often, and tithes regularly. In our mind he/she is pure and wholesome, watching their hearts against anger, lust, greed or selfishness living on faith alone.
We all try to serve God while juggling family, friends, school, careers, and bills, and some of us try to go beyond that…serving God by ministry or taking an active role through praying, meditating, studying, reflecting, fasting, church or social work. In our own ways, we all seek to become more spiritual, to understand His will for our lives and to do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
Though we wish we could do better, many of us aren’t so well gifted at doing some of these things. Many of us struggle to read the Bible, rereading the same page over and over without knowing what we just read. And we would love to tithe 10% of our income… if we could afford it. And sometimes…well it’s just nice to sleep in some Sunday mornings. Checking our moods is another challenge. And oh if being happy in the Lord were only so easy or having patience and faith while waiting on God and letting go of an old grudge, well...almost impossible.
All of this makes us come to the conclusion that perhaps we’re not so good at being so perfectly spiritual as we would like.
The keys to our spirituality are the two commandments of Jesus.
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." - Matthew 22: 37-40
We have no problem with the first commandment. We all love God. That is a commandment of the heart. Most of us have submitted ourselves completely to Him. We attempt to purify ourselves and hope to draw closer to Him in our daily walk.
But God has given us an easy beneficial, beautiful and spiritual way to serve Him regularly that is basically almost like not working at all. Yet many of us would rather not do it, relying on more independent activities like prayer, Bible study, meditation, self-discipline...all activities that don't require anyone else. But God is telling us that a part of serving Him, is to serve others:
To love your neighbor as yourself.
first commandment is one we follow with our heart, the second is in obedience
to the first. One that requires us to act.
Because we can’t just love our neighbor in our hearts, God has made it necessary for us to actively show love by action. This is the only way our neighbor can know we love them. We have to show them.
The most spiritual thing we can ever do is to love someone in the name of Jesus Christ.
I don’t mean a fake love out of a sense of duty, so we can score points
with God. “See Lord, look at all the people I'm helping, I must be a
good Christian!” But loving our neighbors can only come from God. It
is because that
love comes from the Holy Spirit. It is evidenced when we have anger when we
see injustice, compassion when we see suffering, and joy when we see healing,
reconciliation and forgiveness.
God sent Jesus to earth to live among us, and Jesus sacrificed Himself for us, even though we didn’t even know Him. When we awaken to the realization of His sacrifice, we can understand the greatness of God’s love for mankind. It is this love that is given to us that we can now pass on to others. Unconditional love.
As we draw closer to God, we see all the love that He has put into His creation…humankind. We see the preciousness of each person and understand how much love God has invested in each and every one. And because of that, we can learn to love everyone.
God asks us to love our neighbors because He loves them. He wants us to love what He loves and in so doing, ensures that each person in the world knows he is not alone. When we love others, we are messengers bringing God’s love to them. God loves us, so we love each other.
Jesus set the example.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus went straight away serving people. He fed the 5,000. He healed the sick and suffering. He befriended those who were outcast. And He taught us to do the same:
He taught us how much He loves us: the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Luke 15:11-32.
He taught us how to care for each other: the Story of the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:25-37.
He taught how we are to forgive each other: the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. Matt 18:23-35.
He taught about humbleness and religious self- righteousness: the Parable of the Pharisee & The Tax Collector. Luke 18:10-14.
And He taught that caring for each other is crucial, even for our own salvation: the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Matt 25: 31-46.
Again and again, Jesus’ teachings are about reaching out, forgiving, humbleness, not judging, fairness, equality, justice, compassion...all human relationship things. Yet, many of us Christians still think that being spiritual is just controlling our lustful thoughts, not using bad language, believing perfect doctrine, avoiding sinful people or just going to church.
These things are fine, but without loving others, you are living a useless Christian life just as the servant who buried his Master's money in the ground in the Parable of the Talents. Matthew 25: 14-30.
When we pass the love of God, we are increasing the kingdom of God, tenfold and a hundredfold and a thousandfold.
Paul says, that even if you are super spiritual and have done great things for God...if you don't have love within...
I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only
a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and
can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can
move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to
the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
- 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3
Paul also says,
“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” - 1 John 4:8
Ouch! That is pretty serious! Our love for people is a direct result of our relationship with God. Not to be taken lightly.
And Peter says "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins." - 1 Peter 4:8
Love it seems, makes up for a lot of sin, failure, pain and hurt.
Jesus did not tell us to become meditating hermits, praying and studying without touching the world. He didn’t command us to commit to purity or righteousness only…the Pharisees covered those bases and look at what happened to them. And why didn’t He tell his disciples to just go to the mountains? Wouldn’t that do a better job of making holy, spiritual people?
Jesus dealt with people by helping, comforting, healing, forgiving, accepting and protecting them and He asks His disciples to do the same, because He knows this is what will bring everyone back to God. Not acts to accuse or avoid others, judging or correcting them...these acts pit people against each other. But rather acts that bring acceptance, inclusion, reconciliation and community.
How many of you came to Jesus because of a person who cared?
said, “By this shall all men know that ye
are my disciples,
if ye have love one to another.” - John 13: 35
He didn’t say they will know we are Christians because we stick to ourselves, avoid sex, rant about sin, quote the Bible, speak in tongues or live perfect lives, but He said they will know us because we have love for each other. And the only way for us to do that is: to go out and love people...all kinds of people. To receive each other as part of the community whether or not we think or act alike. We are even to love our enemies! An act that starts healing and restoration.
In every act of love we do, we are serving God. Every act of love is an act done for Jesus.
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' - Matthew 25: 40
But why is this second commandment so hard for many of us to follow?
Because loving people requires us to sacrifice ourselves, (as Christ did for us). We neglect this active commandment because we are afraid of people. We really don’t want to get involved. It is risky and overwhelming. We will be rejected, asked favors of, expected to loan money to, have to listen to people's problems, we will be burned and hurt, all the unpleasant aspects about befriending people.
So because it is so uncertain, we pick who gets this love and who doesn’t. We draw a line somewhere among people to make it easier for us to love someone. But we have to put aside our wants, preferences and prejudices and make room for people we’re not sure we will like or will like us. The commandment is to love our neighbor…not love our neighbor because they’re cute, or fun, or the same age, or because we have a lot in common, or because they look like they won't be too much trouble.
Most of our neighbors are nothing like us. They have different careers, different life styles, different politics, different personalities and different opinions. But that is why Jesus wants us to bridge the gap between us so we can learn to love each other despite our differences.
Many of us reason that if we just love our church family or our friends we will fulfill the commandment. And yes, many people have no problem loving everyone inside their own church. But that is why so many churches try to make everyone in their congregations think, believe and behave the same. It is easier for them to love each other...if everyone is exactly alike. But these same churches have no trouble criticizing other churches, non-believers, the government, politicians, etc. because "they are not like us."
And many Christians, reluctantly befriend people with the sole purpose to convert them...to make them a project...as a means to fulfill their own religious obligation to preach the gospel. (Even in loving someone else...we are looking to score points for our self.) But people know when they're being used and they know when someone is not genuine. People don't like being talked at. But they will listen to ANYONE...if there is real friendship behind the talking.
Well, I've got news for you...EVERYONE outside the church is our neighbor. And the way we view them...as "outsiders"…is our first sin.
The definition of neighbor is: “One who lives near or next to another”. If each person, loved the person next to them, eventually everyone would be covered.
The commandment of God, to love your neighbor, includes everyone we encounter. God blesses us so we can bless others. In turn we get blessings back from others as well as God. It comes full circle. Loving someone in the name of Jesus Christ is actually not difficult for the person who has the heart of God. It is difficult for the person who only has his own welfare at heart.
Loving God's people is easy. Pick up the phone and call a friend. Introduce yourself to someone. Write a letter, send an email, drop a line. Ask someone to go to the movies, or bowling, or to dinner. Prepare a meal for someone. Give a compliment. Treat someone to coffee or dessert. Volunteer. Do a someone a favor. Babysit. Dogsit. Give someone a gift. DO SOMETHING! DO ANYTHING!
Do something for someone...in the name of the Lord!
There are one hundred million ways, we can include people into our lives. And though you may only do it to fulfill the obligation to “Love your neighbor as yourself”, you will find it is not an obligation, but a blessing. It’s not a duty or requirement but an amazing wonderful thing. As we go, we'll develop friendships and relationships. And as you introduce one friend to another friend, the next thing you know, you have a community.
Yet still many Christians never include "loving your neighbor" in their list of spiritual things to do. They would rather just stay home and read the Bible alone or watch TV in their free time.
But loving your neighbor is the MOST spiritual thing you can ever do, and the more you do it, the easier it gets. When you get the courage to say hello to someone, the next time you’ll say hello to someone else. The next thing you know, you have a bunch of friends who are calling you. It’s something that is supposed to benefit us as well.
Why is it spiritual? Because you are helping someone. Within your own life, someone has helped you along the way. In 1st grade, in junior high, in college, there was someone who befriended you, talked with you, cared for you, laughed with you, missed you, and was touched by you. These people supported you, taught you things, and learned from you. They helped you and you helped them. These friends have made your life full and carried you through, giving you confidence, support and a sense of belonging. These are things we all need just to get through the day.
And this love is what heals us, makes us strong, makes life wonderful and helps us to see God. Love really does make the world a better and healthier place to live. Today, there are many people who are alone, afraid, friendless and suicidal, but we each have a hand in changing all of that.
Jesus asks us to treat others as we want to be treated. Matthew 7:12. So when we love, we are to love the best way we know how. And unlike just going to church, tithing or fasting…loving benefits two people, you and the one you reach out to.
Loving your neighbor gets you out of yourself. Loving someone makes you enter into someone else's world, putting aside your own self-preoccupations and concerns. The great thing about love is we can show God’s love anytime, anywhere, with anybody.
Simple, easy and you can start immediately to make life beautiful for you and someone else, just as God meant for us to be.
© 2006 Edrick
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