“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him,“You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:32-34
I believe the church has more than its share of leaders who cannot see the forest for the trees. They get so distracted by the minutia, the petty, the theological fine points, they lose sight of the main thing. I suspect you know a leader or two like that. You may even BE a leader like that…but, if you are, you probably do not know it. After all, what kind of leader would knowingly be like that?
The Pharisees and other teachers of the law in Jesus’ day were often that way. They were so distracted by the complexities of their traditions and the fine points of the Mosaic law, they had virtually lost sight of the Spirit behind those laws. Questions like, “What’s most important?” were particularly troublesome for them.
Jesus, on the other hand, seems to me to be a “big picture” kind of leader…at least in matters of theology. He always had an eye on the things which matter most, and he had a way of embarrassing the institutional religious thinkers of his day in this regard. He valued a theology which kept the main thing as the main thing. I think that is what he saw in this particular teacher of the law in Mark 12. …
There is a public park in Luhans’k, Ukraine where my ministry has gone to work with churches in the past. The park is in a “forest”. It is a beautiful place. But there is something eerie about it. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but there is something about it which just doesn’t seem right. You feel like you are out in nature, but not really. Then you learn the story…the “park” is a man-made forest built by the Nazis. The trees are all lined up! Then it’s not eerie anymore…it’s just funny.
I had a long conversation with “Thomas”, a church leader whose church was blessed with a diversity of people. The topic of the conversation was worship styles, but the principle at issue was much larger than that. When confronted with the reality that a variety of preferred worship styles (I usually refer to them as “languages”) existed in his church, this leader sternly refused to use any other styles other than the one they currently used, the one they had been using for many decades. His premise was this: in our worship we must stay unified, with a common “language” or style, because the more homogenous we are, the stronger we are…diversity only weakens us. Hmmm. It flustered me a little, because it was an entirely new argument for me. I honestly never thought anyone could make an argument against diversity among God’s people. Frankly, pictures of a Nazi forest came to mind.
I have always seen our diversity as an incredible strength. It challenges us, to be sure. It is difficult at times, to be sure. But it stretches our understanding of God and of one another. It is that whole “you complete me” thing. I actually am energized being …