Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Am Last

A billboard along Central Expressway in Plano, Texas, says simply: I Am Second. It is part of an evangelistic outreach ministry, but they got the number wrong. Christians with total commitment to God know "I Am Third" is more accurate. More precisely, "I Am Last" is how Jesus said those with total commitment think about such things. Jesus summed up God's law in two simple commands: (1) Love God, and (2) Love your neighbor as yourself. At best, I am third behind God and my neighbor, but being last and putting God first doesn't mean cutting off those to whom God calls me to serve and minister. Neither does it mean spurning those with whom I should be co-laboring to make disciples.

Someone whom I thought was my good friend is cutting away our relationship stating, " That's what the First and Great Commandment is all about: cut away everything else -- money, hobbies, even family (relationships: see Luke 14:26) -- only God matters." In his zeal to literally follow this hyperbolic teaching of Jesus, he appears to be missing God's heart for the relationships required for community, discipleship, and unity within the body of Christ. Yes, God does want us to be Holy and wholly mindful of Him, but it is a false dichotomy to believe this creates an either/or choice between God and relationships with other people. All you have to do is look at the life of Jesus to see the truth of the matter.

You cannot love your neighbor or make disciples without engaging in personal relationships with other people. You cannot obey God's guidance to live in community with one another or be a church with each other without personal relationships. You cannot bring a message of reformation to the body of Christ without being engaged in the body life. You cannot bring the Word of Truth to those who do not have it in their heart language if you cannot relate to those who can take the technology and message to people groups who desperately need it.

Ironically, by choosing to exclusively and single-mindedly follow command (1) to the apparent exclusion of command (2), my friend has missed what God put right in front of him to help him share his life work with the body of Christ. I admire his single-minded devotion, but it seems a great pity that his life work will likely collect dust on the shelf until he discovers God's heart for personal relationships. God will find other ways to accomplish His objective, but I wish my friend could experience the joy of being in the community of believers. I hope his holy isolation is rewarding because that is all he has at the end of the path when he walks alone. I choose not to walk alone. I'm looking for truthful relationships.