Have you ever felt that being a Christian is really complicated sometimes? Once we embrace our faith it seems as if we struggle so hard to be “Christ like” and fail so often that our faith becomes one of struggle instead of joy. We begin to feel defeated instead of saved. It feels like rules we can never obey instead of freedom.
I don’t know if you ever feel this way, but I know I have at times and I know others who have as well. It’s during these times I think it’s vital we remember to kiss. No, not that kind of kiss, but KISS – Keep it Simple Stupid!
I have found the simplest way to explain our faith is to go back to what Jesus said, which is always the best way to start! You may know that the Pharisees were always trying to trap Jesus by asking Him questions with which they thought He’d incriminate Himself. True to form, the Pharisees ask Jesus what is the greatest commandment, thinking that by making Jesus choose one He would negate the importance of the others (Matthew 22:36). Jesus of course blows them away. He says this: “‘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).
My friends, this explains EVERYTHING you need to know about following Jesus – Love God and Love Each Other and everything else will fall into place. KISS. Let me explain why this is brilliant and what it means to your faith walk!
Simply put, if you love God you will do what He tells you to do and thus you won’t rebel against Him and will always be in His will.
If you love your neighbor you will always do what is in their best interest and will never transgress against them AND perhaps more importantly when you love your neighbor you will be able to forgive them when they transgress against you.
Now let me dive deeper to show you what Jesus means by “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Take a moment to think about all the standards which you try to meet as a Christian. Some are easy, like don’t kill, don’t lie, don’t steal, and don’t commit adultery – at least I hope those are the easy ones for you! But there are others that are much more difficult, such as turn the other cheek, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, don’t judge, don’t lust or covet, forgive every offense, show mercy, store up treasure in heaven not earth, give sacrificially, humble yourself, and take up your cross and follow Him. Perhaps you have others with which you struggle. Just add them to this list.
Now think for a second – do any of these fall outside of Love God and Love Each Other?
See, Jesus completely understood what the Pharisees were trying to do, but He just stopped them cold with this answer. There is nothing we are told to do in Scripture that does not fall under Love God or Love Each Other. KISS.
So what does this mean for your individual walk? Well, stop trying to fix that sin in your life through discipline and struggle. Instead either love God more or love others more. Let me give you an example of each.
If you struggle with lust what really is happening is you are settling for less than God has for you and instead accepting the mediocrity that Satan is offering. When this happens you actually love your sin more than you love God. That has to be reversed so you ask God to show you the truth through the Holy Spirit who then can show you that what God has for you is so much better than what Satan is peddling. When you see what God has for you – the truth – you will want that more than the counterfeit Satan offers and consequently love God more for giving it to you. This same pattern holds true for addictions as well – alcohol, drugs, gambling, porn, etc… – if you love the addiction more than you love God it will consume you. But if you choose the best God has for you instead of the mediocre Satan has for you your love of God will overcome the sin.
Let’s say your struggle is another person who treats you badly in some way. How in the world do you love that person and shouldn’t there be a boundary of some sort? This is the one that I find trips up most people. So Jesus says love your neighbor as yourself and everything will fall into place. The first step is separating the sin from the sinner. Someone’s actions may be horrific, but that does not make them less a creation of God whom God wants to see come home. We obviously can call out the behavior without writing off the person. So how do you love a bad or even evil person? You pray for them. You treat them the way you treat everyone else because God is judging you on what you do not on what they’re doing to you. You persevere when it’s hard and find your strength in the Lord instead of trying to find your strength in yourself and doing as the world would want you to.
When I teach this I always get push back with the hypothetical “What if” questions, so go ahead fire away – What if the person is physically abusing you? What if the person is just plain evil? What if the person is interfering with your livelihood? There are a hundred more. Let me answer your questions with a question: What if you were rebelling against God? How should God treat you? Should He treat you as you deserve or should He show you mercy, grace and forgiveness by loving you for you and not based on your performance?
Again, every situation is different and yes, there needs to be appropriate boundaries set when people are dangerous to you or your family. But setting an appropriate boundary is not the same as hating another person, or holding a grudge against another person, or even burning with anger against them. We are to forgive as we’ve been forgiven; not judge because that’s not our job, it’s God’s job; and pray for those people that they get what you got – a new life in Jesus.
None of what I am saying is easy, and actually it’s impossible to do in your own power. That is why Jesus died for us and empowered us with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. To truly Love God and Love Each Other is a supernatural act – one that must be done through the power of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this is why we are told not to lean on our own understanding and to rely on God!
Scripture tells us that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8) which is why Jesus says what He says. God’s love for us covers a multitude of our sins which is why scripture tells us that God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son so that whosoever believes in Him shall have eternal life. We should do no less by loving our neighbor as ourselves to cover a multitude of their sins against us and thus provide them the grace and mercy and forgiveness we received when we didn’t deserve it either.
While many of us who teach and preach can make our faith quite complex through theology, doctrine and dogma, I think it best to go back to Jesus and remember to Keep it Simple Stupid – Love God and Love Each Other and your Christian walk will bear much fruit!