Kindness is the missing detail in our understanding of the gospel

Every Sunday at our church, whoever preaches has the opportunity to write up a devotional for some additional study or reflection. Here is my last sermon and the devotion that goes along with it. Enjoy.

ENCOUNTER: Try and memorize Matthew 22:37-38

If you have been around the church for any length of time, you are probably aware of the greatest commandment; to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And for bonus points you probably know the second which is like it; to love your neighbor as yourself.

We throw around this verse as well as the word love so much that I am afraid we have become inoculated to it. We have made the idea that God loves us, that we are to love God, and love others into a simple summation of our faith. But that is not how it should be.

We see throughout scripture that God actually has warm hearted emotion and even passion for his people. The passage of scripture I preached on this last week highlighted this reality. It is because of his kindness that he saved us. This is the truth: God is warm hearted in his affection toward you and me. He loves loves you.

And because God is a relational being, he longs for that affection to be returned.

For most of my adult life, I have understood this reality in my head. But because of how I am wired, my baggage, my own broken and sinful understanding of myself and the world around me, I made a subtle shift in how I work out my faith. I work really hard to be dutiful.

In fact, being dutiful has really worked out for me. I have worked hard to beat down my sin and mostly live uprightly. I have worked hard to have a disciplined life where I am regularly in the Word and practicing spiritual disciplines. And I have worked really hard to position my life to make sure I love people in my world with all the duty I can muster.

But I am more and more convinced that God does not desire that we are dutiful towards Him, but rather we are devoted to Him.

What a subtle shift, but a shift that changes everything!

God longs for us to be devoted to Him, to have our lives conform to His and His purposes because we are devoted to God and long to please Him, long to be close to Him. God longs for hearts to be as warm hearted towards Him as His heart is towards us. Being devoted is the bedrock of a transformative faith.

As I have been reflecting on this, I have had to laugh that so much of my actions that are dutiful would also be the same actions as if I am devoted. The difference is that instead of white knuckling my life, I am living fully into and out of my warm hearted devotion to God.

BE REFLECTIVE:

Here is the hard work: What state is your heart in? How warm hearted are you towards Jesus? When have you been most devoted to God? What is going on or has been going on that has caused your heart to grow weary or your knuckles to become white? What would change if you could fully get your mind around how much God genuinely loves you, has affection for you, and longs to be mutually devoted to you? This reflection is some of the vital work that we must do so we can mature in our faith. And that maturity looks less like being dutiful, and more like being devoted.

BE A BLESSINGS:

As I mentioned in the beginning, the second part of this commandment has to do with posturing our warm hearted devotion to others. In Matthew, Jesus reiterates that we are to love our neighbor as our self. But in the gospel of John, the apostle records a new commandment, to love one another the way that Jesus has loved us. So if can embrace God’s warm hearted affection pointed directly at you, can see it as part of your spiritual formation and discipleship to point that warm hearted affection towards others today? (Maybe even people you don’l like very much)

BE TOGETHER:

This Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. We can not be reminded of the goodness of God all by ourselves. We can’t live into the new commandment that Jesus has given us if we are not around other people. We can not experience devotion by ourselves. Duty is a solo action, but devotion has to have another person. So, this week, who are you going to share your life with, share your heart with, encourage to soften your hearts towards God and towards one another?

Blessings!

bk