This past week I had the opportunity to attend the North Carolina Preaching Festival. It was a blessing as a preacher to attend excellent worship and hear top notch preachers and then learn at their feet as they shared insights and best practices. Although I have read several of her books this was the first time I had the chance to listen to Nadia Bolz-Weber, an outside of the box Lutheran preacher and pastor from Colorado. She is startling in her
approach to God and yet gritty and real. However, I struggled with one of her concepts she shared with us. After asking a question I realized we were approaching things from our different theological heritages: her Lutheran background and my Wesleyan background.
She talked about the difference between preaching Law and preaching Gospel. She talked about the difference between our ideal self and our actual self and that the Law helps us measure that gap. But that the Gospel helps us bridge that gap. She said we have to be convicted by the Law in order to appreciate the Gospel. But she warned that whenever we teach or preach about doing anything differently in our lives we left Gospel and reverted back to Law.
I know that we don’t want to hear another word about how we are not good enough or that we fall short and are very imperfect. And that if we only do this or do that we will meet God’s standards and redeem our broken selves. We don’t need anyone else to point out imperfections- we are quite talented at doing that ourselves.
Thank goodness we worship a God that loves us so very much that truly our brokenness is not a barrier to receiving God’s love. And yes, our faith alone is what saves us – not anything that we do. But my Wesleyan background resonates in my heart that when I love God with all of my heart and I trust in the truth that God loves me with all of God’s heart – that is not all there is. This love moves me to love others.
Jesus said to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind and then love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31) If we are so self absorbed in our personal relationship with Jesus, some of us might fail to practice the second aspect of loving our neighbor. Part of doing our faith in community is supporting one another, encouraging one another, and pushing one another to faithfully live as a Jesus follower. Sometimes that means the preacher must encourage or challenge the flock to love God or love neighbor. That action doesn’t earn extra Jesus love for us. It does help us to deepen our discipleship. It does help us be a fuller witness for why being a Christian makes a difference in our lives as others observe us.
I am thankful the Gospel freed us from the Law. But that doesn’t mean Jesus calls us to a place of belief only. We are to follow. Not only where Jesus went but what Jesus did. That is true today. We are to follow where Jesus goes and what Jesus does. I’m pretty sure that is going to require more of me than saying, “I believe”.
Grace and Peace,