There are times when it all just gets to be too much. At least, for many of us it does. In our Christian walk, we often become "Godded out." Christianity becomes so confusing to us, that we have to take a break to let our mind sort things out without any new input. I discovered some core truths that helped me and could assist any of you in that process. There are things like the Serenity Prayer. In addition, I discovered that we are not alone in searching for this kind of clarity.
Martin Luther took one verse of the Bible and turned it into the Reformation.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." Others resort to an infallible Bible or an infallible church. And I wonder if perhaps the scribe who approached Jesus in last week’s gospel reading wasn't a little bit "Godded out." Perhaps he had been having difficulty sorting through the maze of Jewish ritual and tradition. When listening to Jesus debate with the Temple authorities he apparently liked the ease with which Jesus handled himself.
So he wanted to know what Jesus thought was the important aspect or the heart of the matter. How did Jesus decide what were the most important parts of the Law? Religion covers an extraordinary range of topics and situations, but how do all the bits and pieces fit together? Does some unifying or integrating principle lie at the heart of it all? “Jesus gives some simple answers. However, as is often the case, his simple answers are not easy when you try to apply them. Suppose we accept that we should love God, how do we do that? How can we possibly love God? What an awesome task!
Can anyone really love God with heart, soul, mind and strength? The answer is, of course, but we have to realise that by ourselves, we are unable to give ourselves completely to God. We discover the most important thing there is to know about God is that God does not stop loving us because we stop loving him. God is always trying to reach us with his love, even when we're trying to shut him out. It works opposite to the way we would work it. We make people earn our love. Some of us even use love to manipulate others into giving us what we want. But God never manipulates us as he loves us even though we don’t deserve it.
Psychologists have given us the self- esteem movement, and many preachers have chosen to emphasise "Love your neighbour as yourself" in response. The theory is that you can't love others unless you love yourself. The problem with self-love is that it's no easier than loving God or our neighbour. At worst, it is a dangerous flirtation with narcissism, and at best, it's a second choice. If you can't believe that God loves you, then you'd better love yourself.
God's love is tied to our neighbour. So love of God, love of neighbour is essential to our way of life. A little poem put it this way:
"I sought my soul, and the soul I could not see.
I sought my God and God eluded me –
I sought my neighbour and found all three."
I believe that Jesus knew the difficulty of love, and he brought these two commandments together because they work together to produce something greater than the sum of their parts.
My favourite prayer is the prayer of St. Francis because it points us to the essential connection. We cannot love God in our own power. We cannot love others in our own power. What we can do is allow ourselves to become channels for the power of God's love to flow through us to others. Now when I get "Godded out," I know what the problem is - I've forgotten the power of God, and I'm trying to do things on my own. Lord, make me a channel of your peace..