Completely inundated by a traffic jam of divergent opinions, many of which are directly or indirectly attributed to the thinking of Jesus of Nazareth, I decided to sit down one afternoon this week and spend some time with my good old buddies, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John–reading all the “red stuff.”
Yes, I still have one of those Bibles where all the things Jesus said are highlighted in red, granting them the significance of being the thoughts of God.
The purpose for my quest was simple–I wanted to narrow down the three basic topics of Jesus’ mindset. Because when you finish perusing all this material, you realize that he said a lot–and you also quickly conclude that he intended his words to be honored, to the point that he measured the love of his followers by how much they held his teachings in regard.
I finally came up with three. You might have different suggestions. Honestly, there were a lot of great runner-ups.
My three statements of Jesus that punctuate his ministry are as follows:
1. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Just about a third of what Jesus talked about has to do with human relationships.
Candidly, Jesus was not terribly concerned about our relationship with God. Instead, he paralleled and intertwined it with our interactions with our fellow humans. So even though “turn the other cheek” was nearly a winner, it fell under “love your neighbor as yourself.”
And “loving the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…” was included because Jesus closed it out by saying “… and your neighbor as yourself.”
2. Count the cost.
This is about human common sense.
Anyone who believes they can live a life to honor Father God by spitting in the eye of Mother Nature is in for a sorry conclusion. Jesus never suggested that we ignore the signs of the times or even the color of the sky, if it might give us wisdom on whether to bring an umbrella.
In other words, get saved but don’t lose your brain. You’ll need it.
3. Go the second mile.
This is human motivation.
Try as I will to find teachings of Jesus where he advocates languishing in grace or getting sleepy in our salvation, I fell short. He believed that “by our fruits” we will be known. He also said, “if somebody takes your coat, give them your cloak also.”
He contended that the power we have is our ability to continue the race when others have fallen out.
So a third of the Gospel is about human relationships. Another chunk is about human common sense, and the final piece is human motivation.
If we simply return to that glorious format laid out for us in the writings in red, the people around us who desire relationships, common sense and motivation will find the BEST FRIEND they ever had in the world.
Until Jesus is honored as a life coach instead of merely a baby born to die for our sins, we will hemorrhage people from the church.