Now that we have fully celebrated the life and death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can again take stock of where we stand in following the Two Great Commandments of Jesus. Are we loving God with all of ourselves? We’re human after all; maybe the better questions are these: am I loving God more today than yesterday? more today than any time last year? Am I able to love myself—warts and all? and does how much I love myself translate into how I am loving, treating, enjoying, valuing all other people in this world?
Am I gaining in peace and joy and love and patience? kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and humility? These fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 are the true test of our ability to love God, ourselves, and others. If we are always gaining in these qualities, then we are truly loving God and following Jesus. I know it is a surprise when they first start showing up in what we do and how we do it. Our capacity to express these qualities of God’s in this world are the sure test of our love for God, ourselves, and neighbors. And it’s not a matter of looking good; it’s a matter of being good. We have to give up our judgments, prejudices, assumptions, defensiveness—all signs of the ego and the world’s ways. Once they are on the way out of our bodies and hearts and minds(conscious and unconscious) and souls, then the story of our lives is no longer about us, what we want, what we care about, the people we want to surround ourselves with, the ways we want to be in this world, the materialism that is rampant in our society.
The name for all this giving up to God is surrender. We surrender our pain and challenges to Him, so that He can heal us of what makes us so ego-centered. We surrender our agendas to Him in favor of the design He created for each of our lives. We surrender everything that stands between us and God. Now surrendering is a life-long process. The Lord will highlight what we need to surrender, then we surrender that. Each thing to be surrendered may have many layers to let go of, so that takes time. As we gain more and more purchase in our lives loving God, following Jesus, we are blessed more and more. If we fall off the wagon of obedience for a while, we will be blessed when we turn back to the One who loves us and forgives us. Read Deuteronomy Chapter 28, for a clear presentation of the source of our blessings and curses—it is the choices we make that determine whether we are blessed or cursed.
As we surrender more and more of the stuff that keeps us in the world, we’re moving from being I-centered and world-centered to being God-centered. From the world’s ways to God’s ways. This movement is all about moving into the kingdom of God here on Earth. Our focus is moving away from ourselves and how we’re doing to others and how they are doing, to God and what He is asking of us. This is a sea change, a movement away from what the world values and what I want to what is God asking of me now? and how are we all doing? We’ve have joined in the community of the world’s human beings. A community based on loving and valuing and forgiving, and it is driven by the will of God and not by our wills. It is based on the fact that God created us all in His image (Genesis 1:27). And this is our chance to be a part of this great movement of mankind into our best selves, into the purpose for which God created each of us.
Here is how Howard Thurman, a theologian and Civil Rights Activist, describes his surrender to God:
I surrender myself to God without any conditions or reservations. I shall not bargain with [God]. I shall not make my surrender piecemeal but I shall lay bare the very center of me, that all of my very being shall be charged with the creative energy of God. Little by little, or vast area by vast area, my life must be transmuted in the life of God. As this happens, I come into the meaning of true freedom and the burdens that I seemed unable to bear are floated in the current of the life and love of God.
One sure way to see how well we’re doing in loving God, yourself, and others is seeing our behaviors change towards people who are outside our circle of family and friends, to see our thinking change as we listen more and more to God, to feel the growth in us of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). If we’re acting the way we’ve always acted towards people who are not like us, if we’re thinking the way we’ve always thought, if we’re totally wrapped up in ourselves and in the world, then we have not made any movement towards following Jesus. We believe in Jesus, but we are not living the life He calls us to. We humans have the capacity to change everything in our lives and to see how God will reward you for your willingness, if we will surrender our lives to Him. And then we truly begin to live.
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at email@example.com and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.
Questions to ponder over the week: How good am I at surrendering to God my agenda, my preferences, all of myself? What would I have to realize and do in order to follow Jesus? How committed to Jesus am I? just to believe in Him? or to really follow Him?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who not only believe in His Son, but are willing to follow Him wherever He leads us. May we experience the weight of the world lifted from our shoulders as Jesus carries the load for us.
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 Quoted in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation of 4.13.22 from Thurman’s book, Meditations of the Heart, (New York: Harper and Row, 1953), p. 175