I don’t really remember where I heard this story. I don’t know if it’s a parable or real….but it’s always stuck with me.
The pastor began working on his sermon. The scripture this week was, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Gal. 5:6
He wrote and he wrote. He thought it was going to be one of his best yet. He was prepared. He researched different translations of what Paul was saying. He read and referenced writings of some of the world’s greatest theologians.
Sunday finally came. As he stood in the parking lot greeting the congregation, he saw bounds of people flowing into the church. Each family coming in had a smile. They seemed happy but, something about it felt off.
When it was time, he walked into the sanctuary and saw little Miss. Johnson in her normal seat, the Smith family was in the back corner like always, Roger was always upfront, and there were the elders in the back huddled up. Everyone was where they always were. The place looked beautiful, the band sounded great, the new LED screen looked amazing…but something was off. Something was missing.
He began the sermon and read out Paul’s words, “The only thing that counts is our faith expressing itself through love.”Gal. 5:6 and stopped. He read it again, “The only thing that counts is our faith expressing itself through love.” Gal.5:6 and he couldn’t go any further.
He realized then, the missing ingredient was love. He threw his sermon out of the proverbial window and read that verse one more time out loud to the congregation. “The ONLY thing that counts is our faith expressing itself through love.” Gal. 5:6. Then he sat down.
The congregation was confused and just sat there awkwardly. Eventually, they started to trickle out of the sanctuary one by one. Not really talking much to their neighbors.
The next week the pastor stood up and said the same thing. “The ONLY thing that counts is our faith expressing itself through love.” AND the week after that and the week after that.
He decided to do that same message until he started to see the love Paul was talking about.
Finally, an elder complained, “Why aren’t we going any deeper? I’m not learning anything.” To which the pastor responded, “It’s not time to learn, it’s time to love.”
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Can I be an honest pastor for a second? One of the hardest things to hear is, “Shelby, you don’t go deep enough in your sermons. You haven’t taught me anything new.”
I get it. Knowledge is safe. It doesn’t hurt you or let you down. Love is messy.
If I could preach one sermon over and over and over again it would be what Paul said there. Essentially it’s the argument, the world doesn’t need more head knowledge it needs more heart- more love.
Think about it, the thing that exploded the early church was not how much the followers of Jesus knew and studied… it was how hard/unusual the followers of Jesus loved one another and the world. Remember, most of the early church couldn’t even read and didn’t have access to the Bible as we know it.
The early church knew something that we forget sometimes. To love someone, we don’t need a lot of words about ancient Jewish holidays and festivals or splicing through some theological debate about free-will…To love doesn’t need any of that….love takes action.
The world doesn’t need more of the Bible….it needs more love.
What would it look like if just the Jesus followers stopped merely talking about the way of Jesus and started to actually do it? What would your family look like? What would your place of work look like? What would our schools look like or our communities?
If you have been changed by Jesus, here’s what I know. The Bible didn’t change your world, God’s love did -His action did….The best way to honor and worship God is do for others what God has done for you. It’s the whole point of our faith. We are on a mission to change the world through our unique type of love.
So then, before you sit down and make a plan or a resolution to read through scripture this year; make a plan to love that person that’s so hard to love in your life-because that’s what really counts.