There are people who believe in Jesus and people who do not. Among those who do not believe in Jesus, there are a lot of good people who do many good things. What is the difference between a person who does not believe in Jesus and does good things and a person who believes and does good things?
The answer lies in the Gospel which reminds us that believers in Jesus are never finished loving (Luke 6:27-38). For us, there are to be no limits to our loving. Jesus affirms how we are already loving and then says to love more. Some samples. It is great that you love those who love you, now love your enemies. If you are slapped on one cheek, turn and offer the other. If somebody takes your coat, give that person your shirt as well. If you lend somebody some money, do not expect to be repaid. In other words, if you think you have loved enough, take another look because there is always an opportunity to love more.
Over the years I have heard people who have been active in the Church say, “Well, I’ve put in my service, now it’s time for somebody else to do the work.” Membership in the Church is not like being a member of a company or a club. We retire from companies. In clubs, the work is eventually handed on to others. For a disciple of Jesus, there is no retirement. Even though it may seem totally unreasonable, the challenge of loving without limits remains the same for our whole lives.
What effort to reach out to someone has stopped because we think we have done enough? Who is the enemy that needs to be loved, whether it be an individual or a country? Who gets our coat AND our shirt, and we never thought we could part with either one? Who do we have trouble loving that could be given life by new efforts to connect with them?
What is the difference between a good person who does not believe in God and somebody who does? The difference is not love. The difference is love that does not draw lines, which tries to overcome obstacles and is always looking for ways to get bigger. The difference is believing in the One who loves us without limits.
Together in faith,
Very Rev. Christopher H. Smith, Rector