How might we summarize Jesus’ teachings and the life he modeled? We need a guide, a condensed version, a rule to compare ourselves to, a standard. Jesus said so many things, but he saw them all as fulfilling the law of the Old Testament which is about love. So in this essay I will endeavor to summarize what he taught.
Above all, 1)we are to love God with all of who we are—body, mind, soul and heart. This is the great commandment. We are to put God and his kingdom first, treasuring it above all.
2)We are to be born again of the Spirit. This follows the first point. If we are to put God and the kingdom first, we have to give up our attachment to the cultural mandates and our own expectations of how life should be for us. Then we are living a whole new paradigm. The Holy Spirit takes our willingness to love God and transforms us so that we are truly “born again” in the Spirit.
3)We are to love our neighbor as ourself. Jesus is not saying to love the other as much as I love myself, but actually seeing no difference between him/her and me, and loving both. To love means to embrace, to have compassion for and with, to be the same as, to forgive, to see the truth about the other and to embrace that truth. And it takes honest humility to see all other humans as the same as me.
The corollary to loving our neighbor is that we are to help our neighbors in need as much as we can: feed, give drink, clothe, care for the sick, visit those in prison, welcome the stranger.
4)We are to keep an open channel between us and God. This means frequent intervals of prayer, not petitions so much, but being in the presence of and communing with God. It also means listening out for God’s suggestions, hints, challenges, etc., the “still, small voice” within, throughout our days. Consulting with God not just on what to do but how and when to do it is part of this. We are to be co-creators with God of our lives.
5)We are to live life fully without anxiety, for God provides all our needs. Anxiety is a big drain on our energies, so to live with trust in God means we have more energy and more of ourselves to bring to God. This means engagement of our body, heart, soul and mind and listening for God’s instructions on how to use our talents and gifts in his service. The closer we come to living out our purpose, the more natural it will seem. God implanted the agenda for our lives at conception; he needs us on the world’s stage living out our purpose which is connected, I believe, to realizing the kingdom on earth.
If we keep our eyes on these five steps, we will get a sense of how well we’re doing in the relationship with God. Struggling with forgiving yourself? Then you need to work on #3. Not spending the time in God’s presence? Maybe there is a better way to “pray” (#4). Not aware of God’s inner promptings? Work on raising your awareness of God’s presence in your life with an examen or a gratitude journal. Every night write down where you sensed God that day and you’ll see your awareness grow(#4). Finding that you don’t have the commitment to put God first? work on #1. It precedes every other step on this list.
Being perfect at all these steps actually isn’t the goal. They are a guide to building a deep, personal relationship with the Lord. They help us stay on track, but they are not the end in itself. That is always the first point: to love God with all of ourselves. All the other points flow out of that one.
Questions to ponder this week: If you don’t agree that I have the main points, what is missing for you? Will these points help you keep on track or do you need something else?