“Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19).
I only need speak for myself here, although I suspect the same is true pretty much across the board; it is much easier to see the spec in your brother’s eye than it is to recognize the plank in your own. I think Jesus made that reality abundantly clear. But the measure by which we judge others yields graver consequences than we may realize; this nearsightedness also distorts how we perceive ourselves, and by extension, our beliefs, our values, our priorities, our world. In What a Conundrum!, I wrote that recognizing evils on the political left comes more easily to me, because I am generally conservative in my thinking. I find the real challenge in recognizing the evils on the right. Like a lot of people, especially in these politically charged times in which we live, I find myself being tempted to turn a blind eye, or make compromises for, wrongdoing, which just happens to fit within my biases. Now, that may be fine for those who are of the world, but it is not fine at all for Cristians. In fact, I probably shouldn’t even have biases, at least not in the worldly sense, my bias, or better put my focus, should rest squarely on Jesus Christ, as revealed in scripture.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘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 22:34-40).
The Lord summarized our obligation to God as the first and greatest commandment: “‘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 Mark’s account adds: “and with all your strength” (12:30). We are to love God with the totality of our being. Love of God encompasses our emotions, our will, our intellect, and our physical strength. What’s more, the second is like the first; according to the apostle Paul, the second actually fulfills the first. “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:13-18). I don’t think the situation, which the apostle was addressing with the Galatians, is really all that different from the situation the Body of Christ finds itself in today. Paul gave the Galatians a grave warning then; a warning that has largely gone unheeded. Jesus spoke of this in the Parable of the Sower, “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19).
I’ve written before that we’ve lost sight of our first love, and the condition of the church bears witness to the fruits of our shortsightedness; I initially typed “world” in place of “church”, but the world’s wickedness, although escalating, is nothing new. Some people are busy chasing world-wide conspiracies, and what the Bible foretells will undoubtedly require a conspiracy of epic proportions that I am convinced is already well underway, while others point to our changing culture, but I say that these have become distractions, powerful ones at that, and I fear that most won’t be able to turn away from them. Teaching the disciples about the destruction of the Temple and signs of the end, Jesus told them, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:12-13). What Jesus was teaching His disciples on that day speaks to the consequences of distraction and the loss of our first love. So whether the end comes tomorrow, or the world goes on for another two-thousand years, I am absolutely convinced that Jesus was speaking directly into our lives today. I highly recommend reading Matthew 24 in its entirety.
Admittedly, I struggle with distractions and biases and even losing sight of my first love, the Lord, too. If God has done anything good through me, it is proof that God’s power really is perfected in weakness; that God can use even the most broken among us. Thanks be to God that He doesn’t leave us in such a dreadful state; thanks be to God that He is transforming and conforming us. Therefore, if you ever hear admonishment in this blog, believe me when I say that the rebuke came to me first. Over the past few weeks, maybe months, the Holy Spirit has been directing my attention to things that I kind of already knew but to which I have been all too happy to turn a blind eye. If we lose sight of our first love, then we’re lost; and if we allow ourselves to be distracted by men (or women), then we lose sight of the principalities and powers at work behind them. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:12-13).
Finally, I was pleased to find that many readers looked past the political element and recognized the larger point I was trying to make in What a Conundrum!. I realize that some of the scriptures I referenced, in building my argument about shortsightedness, may have stung a bit, but I’ll leave each person to take any questions or disputes to God directly. There’s a reason why some scriptures are more widely preached than others, and conversely, some over emphasized at the expense of others; that’s all another reflection of our shortsightedness.
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