Everything Else is Second

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  Matthew 22:34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

           This summer while traveling, we had the opportunity to share at Poplar Spring Church in King, NC. Poplar Springs was the church that I grew up in, and was the place that had ordained me into ministry.  It is always a pleasure to go back and share about the things that God has been teaching us while living in Bangkok.  This year, my message firstly focused on building a relationship with God, and then secondly, building relationships with others.  While I was preparing the message, Jana hit me with a question that I had not considered while looking at this passage.

Jana said, “I have never noticed that at the end of this passage that Jesus states, ‘the entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these commandments.” As we continued discussing her insight, we quickly realized that Jesus was telling us that everything that we deem important is second to this great commandment.

The idea that everything came second opened my mind to the fact that no matter how passionate I might be about a particular issue or ritual, if I am not loving God and loving other people, nothing matters. This problem was considerably noticeable to us as we traveled and watched the news media while visiting family and friends. It appears as if we have become so passionate about certain issues we deem as “sin”, that we forget that God commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus did not say to love your friends, or love people who think like you, or love people who act like you, or even love people who live like you; He simply said to, “Love our neighbor.”

          As I was speaking at Poplar Springs, I was reminded that I am more receptive to input from people whom I have a relationship with.  If certain people who I cherish as personal friends speak truth into my life, then I listen. No matter what that truth might be, I am open to receiving it. But, we are not using the same practice with our neighbors because we are not building relationships with them. Instead of building a relationship first, we want to state our agenda, hammer a person with our Christian truth while exposing their sin, and then start building a relationship with that person.  Why are we shocked when people state that their impression of Christianity is judgmental?  I do not believe that is the prominent example Jesus gave us throughout the New Testament.

Let me close by saying that I believe in truth and the Bible as the Word of God.  I am also quick to judge others instead of focusing on relationships.  But, this approach is not the one we are shown in John 8.  Too often we want to ask who the sinner was, and what their consequence came to be.

Maybe instead, we should start focusing on Jesus’s answer to not be so concerned with pointing fingers at other people’s sin and instead let Jesus work in that person’s life:

John 8:2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said.” Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”   . . . .

Jack Barr, Author

Product Details

A Special Share Of My Book, Failing At Fatherhood. . .

Hello Friends, Readers, and Welcome New Friends,

 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

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Excerpt From Failing at Fatherhood

Marley, today I came home from work, and I heard you yelling when I pulled up on my scooter. From the street I could hear your innocent voice calling out to me—“Da-ddy, Da-ddy.” As I walked up the steps towards our sliding glass front door, I saw you standing there with your arms up in the air waiting for a hug. Only God knows how long you would stand there waiting for me so you could give me you’re welcome home hug. As I bend down and hug your little toddler body, I can barely hold back the tears of shame that I now carry in my daily life, the shame I have of abandoning you mentally and emotionally for the first year of your life. How I long to go back then and know what I know today as I hug you so tight that you begin to giggle. You have shaped my life for the better and taught me about a love I could never truly understand before your birth.

When I wrote the CNN article, I read comments about the hatred you would feel towards me one day. How could I share the darkest thoughts of my soul about my own daughter? Many parents were sure to point out that one day you would not only hate me, but also refuse to love me because of how I treated you during your first year. As I finish this book, I accept that you may abandon me the same way I abandoned you that first year. If that fate comes, I will fully accept it, because that would only be a fair response to my failures as a father to you. The day is coming that you will not see me as the hero hugging you now, but before that day comes, I want you to understand that I believe true healing comes through honesty.

This book is because of you, and the change in my life would never have occurred without you. Today, I have a love for you that I could have never imagined or comprehended before the words Down syndrome entered our family’s life. My love for you and the journey of our lives need to be shared because many fathers out there are receiving news that will forever change them. You are a beautiful blessing who has taught me many things these first few years. It started out difficult for me, but I promise you I will be right here loving and caring for you until we meet our father in heaven. When you were born, I was scared. Even before I knew about your extra chromosome, I was scared. The idea of having another person in my life to care for worried me day and night. I never really told Mommy, but I was fearful of being a terrible father. From the moment you were born, I was anxious about you and your health. The only things I could think about were the problems that you might have instead of enjoying the beautiful person you are.

When the doctor told me that you had Down syndrome, I went into panic mode. I knew you were different. The problem was that I could not see past the diagnosis. You are different, just like how I am different, and how Mommy is different. You are the most beautiful person I have ever met and the sweetest girl in the world, except when you don’t nap. Now I look forward to spending time with you every day. Things I used to love to do like play basketball, watch ESPN, and listen to the Orioles all come second after you. You have made me a better husband, father, and person in this world. The bear hugs we share are some of the happiest moments of my life. Our secret kisses through the mosquito net on your crib are the final nightcap I cherish every evening before going to bed. The little things like chowing down on hamburgers together because momma refuses to eat that junk food would have been nonexistent without you. I pray to God that we are able to spend many years together, and I thank him for the great blessing that you are in my life.

As I close, I pray that you will one day forgive me for my insecurities and doubts. I am going to spend the remainder of my life teaching you, loving you, helping you, and protecting you. You are a gem in this world that some people may never choose to experience. I know there will be days that we will cry together, but there will be more days that we laugh and dance together.

The world can be a cruel place but the great news is that you will overcome it. You have a bloodline of fighters, and I already see the fight you will bring against anyone who doubts you! God is on your side, and he has a greater plan for you than he ever had for Mommy and me. The things he has done with your life these first three years are amazing. I love you, my beautiful daughter, and thank you for entering my life so I could see the beauty that only you could show me. —“Da-ddy”

www.iftheyhadavoice.org
Jack Barr, Author of Failing at Fatherhood
http://www.amazon.com/Failing-Fatherhood-book-imperfect-father-ebook/dp/B00OSSQDGA