“Every Christian has to partake of what was the essence of the Incarnation, he must bring the thing down into flesh-and-blood actualities and work it out through the finger-tips. Oswald Chambers”
So much of my vocation as a pastor involves helping myself and my friends in what Oswald describes as working things out through the “finger-tips.” This work is not easy; it is conducted in an environment saturated by dualism – that classic old division between spiritual and secular. I endeavor in a culture where Gnosticism is still alive and well.
This last weekend our community studied the Shema and looked at the way in which the Jews of Jesus’ day, and Christ himself, worked their love for God out in the actualities of their lives. They:
Prayed at least three times a day.
Reminded themselves of God’s commandments through the donning of a tallit.
Affixed a mezuzah to their doorposts.
All these actions served as a gathering point. A turning point back to the God they worshipped. Most of us when we’re confronted with their devotion have an instant reaction or actually and indictment. We so easily say that they did these things in the flesh or that they were legalistic or even that these actions are a sign of religion and not an indication of a living relationship with God. Now all of these reasons can definitely be true. But we have to ask ourselves the question: how is my calling Christ Lord really influencing the day-to-day in my life? How am I keeping Him number one? “Hear O Israel, the Lord is One!”
As a text for the weekend we looked at Mark 12:28-34. A man, impressed by Jesus’ debating skills asks Jesus which of the 613 commands in the Torah is the most important one. Jesus answers with the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-11 (the Shema actually consisted of prayers from Deuteronomy 11 and Numbers 15 also). Jesus quotes this ancient text and in typical revolutionary fashion changes the Shema! He says that we should “love the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength and that we should love our neighbors as yourself.” Take a moment or two and see if you can see what Jesus adds.
He adds the mind and the fact that we should love others like we love ourselves. This adaptation is what Scot McKnight calls the Jesus Creed. Here’s something I want to ask you, why does Jesus add the mind part?
After hearing Jesus’ answer the man praises Jesus for his clever answer and then Jesus saw the man’s wise answer He said that he’s not far from the kingdom of God. May it be that he is living in the dualism that all of us struggle with? Maybe! Cognitively the commands made sense to him, but it has not yet infiltrated the rest of his being, in other words it has not activated his heart, soul and strength.
One of my friends told me how he listened to a public Christian radio station and how the person told his listeners to take a moment and bow ‘in the spirit’ before the Lord. Now I believe that this preacher meant no harm. Yet it reminds me how we live what one of my other friends call a two-storey life; the spiritual Sunday life and the rest-of-the-week real life. As a pastor I’ve heard comments like “this sounds nice in a Sunday sermon but tomorrow I’ll have to face the real world with its realities.”
As followers of Christ we’re challenged to live lives of constant identification with him; lives wherein we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. As I close this post I’m wondering what things contribute to the dualism that we’re facing? Any suggestions?