Matthew 22:34-40, 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.”
Loving God and loving others. The two greatest commands. The heart and soul of what it means to live a Christian life.
In an old newspaper column somewhere back in time, I once wrote about God’s response when looking at his children and all of the theological drama we have created. In my imagination, I saw Him shaking His head and saying, “No, no, no. That isn’t it all.”
I suspect there are lots of ideas, beliefs, and dogmas that satisfy our human nature but miss entirely the ideal of God.
You might be an arm chair or a classically trained theologian and think me arrogant to even suggest such thing. In return, I think it pretty arrogant to ever imagine even for a minute that we have gotten it all right.
Along the way of developing and defending our doctrinal beliefs, it sometimes feels as if we have lost the main thing. I often tell the sixteen year old in our house, you can be right and still be wrong. If you are right, but mouthy and snotty in the process, all the right doesn’t undo what the attitude got wrong.
The same is true of Christianity. If your doctrine of _________ is exactly what God intended, but you fail to be loving toward your follow man, what good does it do?
You can be right and still be wrong.
Can I get an Amen?
I will probably not make any friends with this post. I suspect some will disagree vehemently. And that’s ok.
I keep being told that one day I will be back in full time ministry. I agree.
I am trying hard to find my voice, to discover my niche, or for lack of a better term, create my own ministry role. But, if you mean being a full time pulpit minister/ preacher/ pastor for a local congregation… I just can’t do that.
One reason is I am a long way from an everyday hey-God-I-can-do-this kind of thing. God and I are still wrestling. I am still limping. And like it or not, most churches wouldn’t handle very well a preacher who openly limps. I am sure there are exceptions, but I wouldn’t know them.
More importantly, another reason is my inability to practice a Doormat Christianity.
Go ahead and ask… you know you want to… What is Doormat Christianity?
As a preacher, my greatest desire was to see the kingdom of God grow. To do that, I strived hard to love God by loving others. In the process, I often allowed myself to become a doormat to those I served.
What about Jesus’ commands to turn the other cheek or to go the extra mile? I fully believe those words at work in our lives would go an awful long way to bringing us peace in our relationships.
Loving God by loving others even when they are unloveable is not the issue. On the other hand, we are often motivated by something less than love in going the extra mile or turning the other cheek.
It’s not a pretty picture, but in my life as a preacher, it was often more about self-preservation. In order to not rock the boat, I welcomed the opportunity to be a doormat to keep my job or provide for my family.
I am kidding right? Not one little bit.
Spiritual abuse? Bring it on.
Power trips? Learn to roll with the punches.
Maintaining the status quo at the cost of your own spiritual growth and creativity? You betcha.
I probably sound bitter. I am. But, I am not content to stay there and so God and I are having to wrestle with that as well.
In the meantime, can I ask a favor? Love your ministers lavishly. Chances are you have no idea what they are sacrificing–sometimes even their own self-esteem. If you like to make jokes at the preacher’s expense about only working one day a week or keeping his moving boxes close to hand or how much money he makes, Stop!
Stop now. He may laugh with you, but it takes a toil.
Eventually he becomes a doormat whether he wants to acknowledge it or not. Even when he can’t or won’t see it for what it is, his spouse sees it and suffers too.
Doormat Christianity is hurtful, destructive, and ultimately damaging to the spirit within.
Loving others means saying this is wrong!
Thanks for reading.
Anything in particular you would like me to address?
How can I help you?
Les Ferguson, Jr.