Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, thatobserve and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.”
- Matthew 23.1-3
Preach diligently what Christ, the holy one, commands; what you ask of others should be what you yourself do.
- The Rule of Carthage, Irish, 7th century
It seems pretty clear the unbelieving world has had its fill of Christians who raise their voices to sound off about the “big” moral issues of the day, but whose lives lack the substance of Christ’s love.
We expect the world to get in line with our morality – at least at certain especially offensive points. But, as the world sees us, we don’t live up to the everyday requirements of love and truth. They see us as angry, intolerant, and as materially- and politically-motivated as everyone else.
Christians seem to have what Father Zossima, in The Brothers Karamazov, regarded as a kind of “dream” love, rather than a love that acts. Dream love, the good Elder observed, sees itself doing something really big and heroic, even at great risk, but only for a short duration, with everybody looking on approvingly.
Dream love is like ending sex trafficking, or pornography, or abortion. Our outlawing homosexual marriage. Or re-establishing Christian teaching in the nation’s schools. Or achieving political outcomes favorable to our ethical checklist.
But, Father Zossima explained, it is in continuous, daily acts of love, which go largely unrecognized, that we fulfill the Savior’s expectations.
We want to roll back the evils of our society in big, public manner, so we defer to highly visible leaders who have the right political allies, while, at the same time, we fail to act in everyday love to the people in our Personal Mission Fields. Truly, we’re dreaming if we think this is what it means to fulfill the Law of love.
It’s no wonder folks advocating all kinds of “alternative” lifestyles go ballistic when they think we’re trying to tell them what to do. We would have more credibility with the wicked of this world if we were less indignant about the world’s sins, and more consistently loving in all our contacts with our neighbors.
Certainly we must continue to insist on the truth of the Gospel and the moral promise of the Biblical way of life. We must preach Christ diligently, and say what we believe, and without compromise of any sort.
But if we are to avoid the condemnation Jesus addressed to the scribes and Pharisees, who talked a good talk but didn’t live it out, we must work harder to embody the Gospel we proclaim, and not expect others to rise to heights of love we ourselves aren’t willing to scale.
Taking up the lifestyle of active love will bring us back to the Law of God at some point. In the Law, the Lord sets forth His requirements for a life that is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7.12). By submitting to the Law of God we can take up the lifestyle of following Jesus, walking in obedience to God’s Law as He did (1 Jn. 2.1-6), and setting ourselves on a course for Kingdom greatness (Matt. 5.17-19).
The goal of all Christian instruction must be love, as Paul insisted (1 Tim. 1.5); therefore, the content of Christian instruction must include a solid grounding in the Law of God. The fact that, in most churches today, the Law of God is ignored, denied, or even vilified helps to explain why we can only dream of big achievements, but fail to realize them in everyday relationships, roles, and responsibilities.
The Law of God encodes the heart of loving relationships, with both God and our neighbor (Matt. 22.34-40). More meditation in, and glad obedience to the Law of God on our parts would put us in a better position to prescribe its absolute requirements to the watching world. Let us become communities characterized by self-denying and holy love, and then perhaps the world will be more open to what we have to say.
If we must dream about changing the world with our heroic acts of love – and we should – let’s dream real dreams, dreams that can come true every day, in simple gestures and words, aimed at showing Jesus to the people around us.
Dream and plan about how you will demonstrate lifestyle love to the people to whom God sends you today.
Psalm 19.7, 8, 12-14 (St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
The Law of God is perfect, His testimony sure;
The simple man God’s wisdom learns, the soul receives its cure.
God’s Word is right, and His command is pure, and truth imparts;
He makes our eyes to understand; with joy He fills our hearts.
Who, Lord, can know His errors? O keep sin far from me!
Let evil rule not in my soul that I may blameless be.
O let my thoughts, let all my words, before Your glorious sight
Be pleasing to You, gracious Lord, acceptable and right!
Teach me, Lord, to dwell in Your Law - not unto salvation, but so that I might work out my salvation according to Your love.
As you pray…
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Ó Maidín, p. 63.