How easily we forget.
A few weeks ago, I spotted a bright yellow sticker stuck to the street and wrote a piece how we might handle people with more care. But as the days have passed, I’ve noticed the sticker, though still stuck in the street, has become faded and almost illegible. Its message had been clear, but it now blends into the dull colors of the road and has lost its visual urgency.
And this is exactly what happens to us. Often, despite our best intentions, the original message fades, and we forget.
When I think about the core message of what it means to be connected to Christ and follow Christ, I immediately go to words Jesus himself says about the most essential teaching of his own spiritual tradition:
You must love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
with all your being,
and with all your mind.
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it;
You must love your neighbor
as you love yourself.
All the Law and Prophets
depend on these two commandments.
And if this isn’t simple enough, Jesus rephrases it in practical terms:
Treat people in the same way
that you want people to treat you;
this is the Law and the Prophets.
Love God. Love people. Sure, we know this. This is–or should be–the heartbeat of following the Way of Christ. And if you need an 80’s pop-culture catch phrase to put it in practical terms, say it along with me, “Be excellent to each other, and….” Could it be as simple as that?
I know this isn’t theologically sophisticated. I know that discerning exactly how to “be excellent to each other” in particularly difficult circumstances can be a gut wrenching challenge. And I know that simply saying “all you need is love” isn’t going to win any debates in the disagreements of the day. But of course, this message isn’t a point in a debate, is it?
Christ’s love imperative is the original bright message that he speaks and lives. And it’s the original bright message adhered to the human heart–the image of God inscribed in the depths of the soul and the very definition of what it means to live fully and abundantly.
But the sticker sometimes fades away into a gray background of rocks and pebbles along the daily road. Life comes with its share of foul weather and heavy traffic, and that can erode the bright colors of Christ-like compassion. And perhaps we sometimes even obscure the message beneath a grimy layer of dogmas and interpretations that prioritize our agendas, prejudices, and ideologies over simply living with grace and loving-kindness. How quickly the message fades due to our own erosive actions!
I know the complexities of human life complicate our understanding of the message and lead us to think up a whole range of compromises and exceptions. But if what we are saying and doing isn’t generating, growing, and expanding genuine and compassionate loving-kindness, then what we are saying and doing isn’t really connected to Christ, right?
How easily we forget. Our work, therefore, is to keep reminding ourselves of the words. And I’ll go even further: our mission is to adhere bright stickers of love along every road we travel–to live the message in its original intensity so that whatever portion of the world we might affect will see the words and experience, through you and me, life in all its fullness and abundance.
Yes, it’s as simple as that.