What does God want?

Jan 10, 2017 by

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What does God want?

If you go to a conservative Christian church, you know the answer to this question is: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Luke 10:25).

If you participate in a liberal Christian community, you know the answer to this question is: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:25).

The astute observer will immediately recognize that these come from the same response from Jesus (and the same verse in Luke/Mark). I have talked about this issue before, and I think it is one of the biggest challenges in being a faithful church community.

The first answer all too frequently leads to a faith that tends toward gnosticism: rejecting the earth and people in it, focusing only on the personal, lacking action.

The second answer all too frequently leads to a faith that tends toward humanism: rejecting the divine and holiness, focusing only on the collective, lacking purpose.

It only makes sense when we combine the dimensions, understanding they are part of the whole: We strive to love God with everything, and receive God’s strength and direction to love our neighbors as we live out our faith.

This splitting of the gospel is not restricted to just this passage. I use this passage because it is a concise example of the problem. Most churches do some of this picking and choosing, often in reaction to seeing the problems on the “other side.” For example, a lot of liberal Christian churches assumed the latter style because they were rightly troubled by the issues stemming from the conservative Christian focus. But, again, this is also problematic.

Recently, I witnessed a few folks doing this with another verse, one which also pretty well encapsulates the issue.

To answer, again, what God wants, the liberal Christian church says: “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly” (Micah 6:8).

The conservative Christian church says: “Walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Of course, again, the truth of it is in the whole. The “humble” isn’t simply about being humble. The connotation is humbly, carefully, obediently walking with God. When we do that, we are better equipped to understand and work toward true justice, and are freed from bondage so we can favor grace and mercy.

Todd Grotenhuis is a member of First Mennonite Church (Indiana-Michigan Conference) in Indianapolis, Ind. He blogs at Groten Stuff, where this post first appeared.


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  • John Gingrich

    I appreciate this teaching, and do not disagree with any of it. I just want to add that the emphasis in both these passages is the human effort or role in our relationship with God. This effort is important but needs to be balanced with the teachings that remind us of God’s loving-kindness. If we see our life as a duty to “DO” in order to be a faithful disciple, we will burn out and fail. In Philippians 2, the admonition to selfless service it preceded by the reminder that we are motivated or empowered by something more than human effort. “If/since you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, any comfort in his love, any common sharing in the Spirit…” Human love is finite and we will soon become empty and discouraged. That’s why Paul prays in Eph 3 that we may “know” the “unknowable” love of Christ and thereby be filled with God’s fullness(love). Until we can truly feel “precious to God” we will not be able to sustain our worship or our work.