God doesn’t love you any more than anyone else, and can’t love you any less than anyone else, either. It’s the best and worst characteristic of God, depending on to whom you are comparing yourself. God loves me as much as Mother Teresa? Awesome! God loves me as much as Mobutu Sese Seko? Oh…
It is this absolute, unbreakable and unshakable love that frees us from the burden of self-justification and self-centeredness. We already know the ending of the story—complete and total reconciliation and restoration of humanity and creation through the love of God made manifest in the grace of Jesus Christ, Redeemer—and what we do in the in-between is vitally important. If we are so loved, as everyone else is, how do we serve them and, hopefully, how can they serve with us?
I recognize I’m repeating a point from my sermon on Sunday, and I am doing so because I muddled it a little bit. I get excited when I preach, and sometimes, I tromp over a pretty big point. I said God loves you just as much if you attend church frequently or rarely; if you study and develop your faith regularly or not; if you give everything you have or absolutely nothing, and that is still true. So why worship, study and give? Because it is responding to the freedom of God’s love in freeing yourself from self.
Not self-worth, not self-identity, not self-care. But self as center.
I’ll tell you something about the spiritual discipline of giving—and it is absolutely spiritual, and it is absolutely a discipline—it gets easier, or rather, it becomes more regular if you let it. This year, instead of writing a check every month (I’m thirty, I don’t even know where my checkbook is, to be honest), I set up an automatic payment through my bank. I get an e-mail on the 29th of every month saying, “A check to Midway Hills for $X will be mailed today,” and then I know. It was harder in February than in October to give what I’d easily blow on myself. It was a challenge to construct a budget where there wasn’t that margin where once there was, or at least the possibility of it being there. But intentionally saying, “I have enough, thank you God,” and then praying, “And may this help others have enough,” has helped strengthen my faith this year. And yes, my faith needs strength and support just like everyone else’s—but my self as center does not. Giving, study, service, worship, fellowship, prayer, all of these help me see a world bigger than me.
Maybe it’s a rejection of ego, I don’t know. When I was telling a friend of mine about this, he said, “That sounds sort of Buddhist,” and I responded, “And?” Which brings me around to Sunday—the Hard Question for Sunday is, “Are Other Religions Wrong?,” with a subtitle, “Is Christianity the only truth?” It’s a whopper, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.