Love the Lord Your God

Revd Chris Wood

We were in a supermarket queue when I noticed that the lady in front was wearing a UEA sweat shirt with 'Physiotherapist' blazoned across the back. I couldn't resist catching her attention, and suggesting that, while we were waiting, she might care to have a look at my back as I was feeling a slight twinge. She looked at the large items that I was carrying, and suggested that, putting them down might just do the trick! (don't you just love conversations like this?!).

When she got to the front of the queue, the cashier asked her to bear with her for a moment, as she stood up and did some gentle exercises to ease her tightening back, to which the Physiotherapist, much to our amusement said: 'Don't you start as well!'. What she hadn't taken into consideration was that her occupation was written across her back, not her front, and it was a pure coincidence that the cashier was easing her back pain in that moment! She laughed with us when we explained.

But then it got me thinking (always a worrying sign) - how do people spot a Christian when they're out and about? Now I know that some wear clerical collars, t-shirts or sweat shirts; others might have a Christian symbol around their neck or on their clothing; some drivers have a fish sign at the back of the car - although judging by the driving of some I just hope that the car belonged to a previous owner...

The Apostle Paul puts it quite bluntly: it's our behaviour towards others that demonstrates where our allegiance lies. In his Letter to the Galatians he writes that anyone who behaves in an appalling manner (offering examples of indecency, debauchery; idolatry; quarrels; a contentious temper, envy; selfish ambitions; jealousies and the like) are not reflecting the values of the Kingdom of God. He then goes on to highlight those things that reflect the nature of God, which he refers to 'the gifts of the Spirit'. These are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control. Concluding that 'those who belong to Christ Jesus have done away with their old nature and desires (as in the first list) and must let the Spirit direct the whole of our lives (as demonstrated in the latter list - refer Galatians 5: 18ff)

That's a tall order I know - and one that I'm sure we all wrestle with each and every day, but there's no point saying we belong to Christ if others can't see the difference that He makes in our daily living. Faith is not something that we express on a Sunday in worship, but must be evident in everything that we say, think and do. James in his Letter, touches on this subject when he writes: 'What good is it, my friends, for someone to say they have faith when their actions do nothing to show it - let us prove our faith by our actions!' (James 2: 14ff).

I was reminded recently that on the homes of Jewish families, there is something called the Mezuzah, which is a box that is placed on the door frame of their homes, and contains the words of the Book of Deuteronomy: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord our one God; and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength'. The command of the Lord was for them to have the words on their doors and gates, as a constant reminder, as they went out and came in, that they were in a covenant relationship with God, which should by its very nature effect their behaviour, and determine who and what they are at all times (faith revealed in action).

I believe that this is something that people of all faiths should adopt - the placing of a sign on the doorposts of homes; places of worship - wherever - as a constant reminder of our responsibility each day, not only to worship God with heart and mind and soul, but, just as importantly, to demonstrate that love through our relationship with others. Maybe it can also be extended to every street corner to prevent some of the awful atrocities that are seen through a misguided understanding of what God requires of his faithful people, for His sole purpose for all humankind is one of goodness, peace, restoration and reconciliation.

As Jesus Himself emphasised: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And love your neighbour as yourself' (ref Matthew 22: 36ff).

God Bless

Chris

May 2017