“Will you marry me?” The young man on his knee looked up into her beautiful eyes.
She beamed and squealed, “Yes!”
“Great! Now let’s get one thing straight. I will be a faithful husband to you and love you all year long, as long as I can go out on just one date a year with another woman. Will that be alright?”
How would you guess the young lady responds? Most young ladies I know would never agree to such an arrangement! The meaning and security of marriage is that we get that person all to ourselves! This is what we call the exclusivity of marriage. Everyone else is excluded from that special relationship.
The exclusivity of marriage helps us understand what God wants in our relationship with him. God has created us to love him. That is our purpose. Now let's ask the question, “How do we love God?” The first way I want to answer this question is to explain the scope of loving God. In other words, how much of me and my life does loving God include? We can return to Jesus’ words to discover the answer:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
And you shall love the Lord our God
with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
What is the scope? How much of me and my life does loving God include?
All. “All” is repeated in this verse four times. He wants us all to himself! All leaves nothing out.
When people tried to follow Jesus while he was here on earth, he wanted to make sure they understood what he expected from them. Jesus shoots straight with us. He doesn’t lure us into a deal and then reveal later in the fine print what is really required of us.
“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,
‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife
and children and brothers and sisters,
yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.
For which of you, desiring to build a tower,
does not first sit down and count the cost,
whether he has enough to complete it? . . .
So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has
cannot be my disciple."
Pretty extreme, isn’t it? As soon as we consider following him, he tells us to count the cost. Again, the deal is total. Is that what you signed up for? Were you under a different impression of what it means to follow Jesus?
Instead of this passionate, radical, fulfilling life in relationship with God, many of us got a stingy, religious version of Christianity. No wonder the world rejects religion! Christianity is a religion, of course, according to the dictionary definition. But religion in its broadest and usually negative sense is hollow. Religion allows you to focus on institutions, doctrines, dues, human leaders, ritual, and self-righteousness. Many religious people think they can give a portion of their lives to God. Many use religion to serve themselves. They use religion to make themselves feel better, trying to ease their consciences. American Christianity is often presented as a self-service program in order to appeal to the people.
What is your understanding of what it means to be a Christian? Maybe it is time for a reassessment.