You may be surprised to know that when I entered seminary I wasn’t entirely sure why I was there. Not only that, I wasn’t sure why I was a Christian. In that first year, I took a required course on the gospels. The professor assigned our class to read each of the gospels four times straight through. Being a veteran of 12 years of Catholic school, I was familiar with the gospel stories. In reading the texts straight through I got an entirely different message than what I had been taught. From that education, I thought the practice of faith was largely a series of rules and regulations to follow in order to get to heaven.
What I discovered in the gospel texts was entirely liberating. Though Jesus was steeped in Jewish tradition, he taught that we should not attach to old rules, regulations and structures. Instead we should focus on what’s important — ministry, worship and prayer. He was met with resistance; constantly lawyers and scholars of his day questioned him, trying to trip him up. But, he could not be derailed. In Matthew 22:34-40, he tells them what he thinks is important, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your buy diflucan online cheap mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
That radical message freed my faith and I became a convicted Christian. Jesus was asking us to do the important things, not obsess about or create rules and regulations that keep us from praying and worshiping, ministering to the poor, working for justice for the oppressed.
Despite Jesus’ well-known command, we all get bogged down in details, rules, regulations and structures. We get much too focused on HOW we do things — ranging from the way in which glasses and silverware are set out at our potlucks to how our meetings must be run. Too often these things get in our way, rather than support, our mission and ministry, our worship and prayer lives.
What are some of the ways this gospel message can liberate you? What detail, rule, regulation or structure would you abandon in order to more effectively live Jesus’ golden rule? What could your church let go of in order to create a more vibrant witness to Jesus’ life and ministry?
Nicole Havelka, Associate Conference Minister for Youth and Young Adult Ministries