I have been working to prepare the most recent sermons in our Free to Be… summer series. The sermons are based on Paul’s letters to the Galatians and the Colossians, and have required me to think deeply about the issue of wholeness as it relates to our lives. When asked what was the greatest of all the commandments within Scripture, Jesus responded:
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great a first commandment. And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).
If you are at all like me, I struggle with such a whole-hearted devotion. I do love God passionately, but do I love him completely? Are there areas within my life where I have determined it is more comfortable to live with a degree of inconsistency than it would be to allow God to do the potentially painful work of clearing away the debris of a divided heart?
In Galatians Chapter 2, Paul challenges the Apostle Peter (Cephas) to recognize a profound inconsistency in his ministry. Peter, born and raised as a devout Jew, had been willing to share in Christian fellowship with Gentile converts to the faith. But when Jewish friends arrived in Roman Antioch where Peter was working, he withdrew from his Gentile brothers and sisters—retreating into the safety of his old customs and traditions rather than braving the unknown world of the full freedom of faith in Jesus Christ. Paul, recognizing the destructive nature of Peter’s actions, called his fellow Apostle to task for his actions.
Such a step requires a degree of courage. As a staff, we recently studied Stephen Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, because we recognize the critical nature of being consistent in our personal discipleship if we are to be effective in leading others to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Covey notes that integrity “also includes the courage to do the right thing—even when it is hard” (p.64) .Paul’s challenge of Peter was difficult. How would Peter respond? Likewise, it takes courage to admit a mistake and make the necessary amends. However, if we are to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ—and as a congregation in service to God—learning to love one another enough to both ask hard questions and to answer one another in love and humility will ultimately determine how God will work in our lives.
My prayer for all of us, myself included, is that God will give us the courage to shine his light and love on the darkest corners of our souls. Learning to love God with a whole heart—undivided and unbroken—is a vision of true hope as to what God can accomplish in us. Come Lord Jesus, do your work within us.