Do you ever read the Bible and begin to see themes winding their way through it? It’s as if there is something that unites the whole story together. I particularly begin to see this as I read the Old and New Testaments together. I think this is one of the beautiful aspects of reading the daily lectionary in the Book of Common Prayer. Everyday you get something from the Old Testament history, prophets, psalms or proverbs, and in the New Testament a gospel reading and something from the letters. When you read all this together you see the continuities and discontinuities so clearly.
This morning as I sat down to write, I was going to start writing about Matthew 7 and not judging others. Yet, I noticed again this word, “hypocrite,” which drew my attention back to Matthew 6. As I re-read Matthew 6 my mind went back to the Proverb that I lead our congregation through this week, Proverb 3.
In proverb 3:1-12 we learn that a good life is marked by:
Love and faithfulness are the key
Leaning on the wisdom of God
Respecting God more than yourself
Honoring God with your wealth
Embracing God’s discipline
These five key things we see also beginning to be laid out in the sermon on the mount, Matthew 5-7.
What strikes me is how Jesus takes these principles and draws on these themes. Take a moment and read through Matthew 5-7. Mark in your Bible where you see these themes begin to appear. I think you will be surprised. (Note: This is the kind of paragraph that gets written when someone doesn’t want to write 5,000 words in a blog post.)
In particular, I am struck by the centrality of love and faithfulness. I think this goes to the heart of Jesus teaching in Matthew 6 and some of 7 about not being a hypocrite. The person whose life is marked by love and faithfulness is the person whose life is whole and integrated.
As I consider love and faithfulness here’s what stands out to me:
The loving person is self-sacrificial
The loving person is consistent
The loving person is marked by faithfulness
The faithful person is honest
The faithful person is trustworthy
The faithful person is loving
Not enough of us have lives that are centered in love and faithfulness. We are too often people who care more about power and control. There is something in us that makes us want to look good on the outside, no matter the consequence. We desperately want to be seen and respected. We want the power to control all of our circumstances. Love and faithfulness too often get in the way of power acquisition. Love and faithfulness too often force us to yield control to another.
Love and faithfulness do not make us weak. Instead, they help us to see the places where we must stand firm. Love and faithfulness become the lens by which we can understand a sick world and know where we need to bring life. When we are rooting our lives in these things there will come times that love and faithfulness demand us to hold firm against evil, injustice, and fear. When that happens there will be conflict.
Some will speak poorly of you when hold to these values. They do so because they are afraid of coming face to face with a person who has integrity. Your integrated life challenges them in places that makes them uncomfortable. This discomfort is often them becoming aware of the log in their own eye. When your life is rooted in love and faithfulness then you are not intentionally calling out the specks in other’s. You become deeply aware of your own failings and as you name them, people become aware of theirs too. This rising sense of self awareness can either make you reflective and push you toward change or drives you into self-protection. If you pursue the latter then you will project the anger, frustration, and disappointment that you are experiencing to the one who is embracing their new found self-awareness.
I think this is why we rarely choose to embrace the way of love and faithfulness. It proves too difficult. We believe that we are learning to love, we believe that we are being faithful, and we expect to find acceptance in the world. Yet, what we find is mocking, derision, and unkindness. So, what do we do? We either double down and seek to pursue this Jesus way of love and faithfulness or we give up. Too many give up.
The tension of living a life that is marked by love and faithfulness can often be too hard to bear for many. It is easier to continue to push off the discomfort and become blown by the wind. Falling into a prescribed way of thinking and living allows us to be comfortable is easier and in many ways self-satisfying.
As I read Jesus story I see a man who was strong, passionate, and had a clear sense of his convictions. I also see a man who lived that way because his life was ultimately rooted in love and faithfulness.
My prayer and hope is to become more like that. I want to live a life that is marked by love and faithfulness. I desire to be someone whose life is consistent and is known as one who loves well and is faithful. There’s a long road ahead. Perhaps I’ll see a few of you on it with me.