All this “love stuff” can really mess up a person’s religious comfort zone

By Pastor Dale Pratt

At Cedar Community Church we’ve been rolling through the gospel of Matthew at the speed of coffee for the past six years. That means…pour a cup. Sip. Read a bit. Lean back, close your eyes, take another sip and ponder. Sip. Meditate. Sip some more, think some more and engage in conversation with someone who cares. Exclaim to God: “You want me to do what?”

What I’ve found is that Jesus says some stuff that will upend your religious status quo, no matter what your religious status quo might be. And, don’t be so smug as to say that I’m the only one here who has a religious status quo! We all have some view of God and who he is and what he does, even if our view – read, faith – is that “The God” doesn’t exist. And, my experience is that most of the time our view is static – it doesn’t move on its own; it prefers to sit still and be comfortable.

Then, along comes Jesus and says something like the two most important rules of the road of life are to develop and live by a totally integrated love of God and a totally introspective love of people (Matthew 22:37-40).

“You want me to do what?”

I do fine with the old standby – thou shalt not kill and stuff like that in the “Big 10” – but this love stuff messes me up.

I’m a Sunday School boy. My first introduction to this thing we call “church” was when I was 4 days old and my mom and dad took me to show me off to the friends and family. I’ve probably averaged more than 50 times a year in church since then. I know static! Don’t mess with my comfort zone! Then I learn to read and pay attention to the writings for myself as I get into my 20s, and along comes Jesus talking to the religious folks 2,000 years ago and I find the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 as the Apostle Paul applies pressure on church folks 50 or 60 years later – and what’s a guy supposed to do?

So I sip my coffee, lean back in my chair – Mom’s not there to tell me I can’t lean back and it’s my chair so if I break the legs it’s my broken chair – and I meditate. Sip. Hmmmmmm. If I do all the religious stuff but miss the love point, I’ve wasted my time? It doesn’t count? God’s not impressed? But my chart on the wall is all filled in and the check marks are there. I’ve done good! I’m a good boy! God’s not impressed?

Whoa! Something’s wrong!

Yep!

Paul ends that chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 by saying there are important things, but the most important of all is love. I can keep the list, do my duty, play my part, be a good boy, maybe even impress a few folks along the road – and God’s not impressed if I miss the love thing. I love to refer to this love chapter in wedding ceremonies, but the concept of unconditional, unmitigated, totally integrated and introspective love is a life thing – if I’ll get a grip on it inside me, and with God, my wife and kids and friends and family and church family and neighbors…yes, even my enemies…will be impacted in a positive manner.

“God, help me to love like You love, and like You want me to love. Amen!”

That’s what’s on my mind this week. I intend to keep it on my mind this lifetime.

Pastor Dale Pratt can be reached at dale@cedarcommunitychurch.org.