How often have I changed my mind about a religious belief I once considered essential?
I doubt that I could count that high. My shift from a regimented theology with an all-controlling God to a free-will-based world with a loving yet powerful God has been enough to make my head spin.
Don’t even get me started on leaving behind the rapture or how reading Jewish Apocalyptic literature changed how I read the book of Revelation.
It’s not that I’ve entirely changed religions here. I’ve always been a “Christian.” Yet, the type of Christian I am and the things I believe and prioritize have shifted enough that it feels like a completely different religion.
I shouldn’t be surprised by this. Trying to figure out a mysterious God sure gets tricky, and only my pride keeps me optimistically thinking, “OK, now I’ve got this figured out!”
I imagine that Jesus isn’t surprised either, and it feels like he tried to warn us that getting into the finer details of God would be a giant FAIL.
There were a few moments in seminary when I read dense theology books and wondered why Jesus told so many simple yet mysterious parables. Something didn’t feel quite right, even though I went along with the program.
When Jesus gave his disciples commands, he kept the list almost insultingly short. It’s as if he implied, “I know you’re in over your heads. Let’s keep this short and simple.”
Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
With all that I have sought to learn and couldn’t, with all that I have changed my mind over, and with all that I thought I had figured out and didn’t, two straightforward commands have never changed.
Those two simple commands supposedly unlock the path toward every other act of obedience. In other words, it’s impossible to love your neighbor and break another commandment. If you have loved, you have been obedient.
So much has changed in what I believe and practice, but if I’m going to take Jesus seriously, it sure seems like these are marginal matters that hardly touch on what’s most important to him. Loving God and loving my neighbor stand firm in place regardless of what I do with the other parts of the Bible.
If it’s guaranteed that I’m going to get quite a lot wrong about God and how I interpret the Bible. Even though I think I’m “less wrong” today than I was in the past, that hardly justifies placing the pursuit of answers over the pursuit of love.
If love is the greatest command, then I have a much simpler and more accurate way of measuring whether I’m living in the way of Jesus. Letting two simple commands guide my life can be humbling, and perhaps that’s why it’s sometimes so hard to get out of my own way and love.
There’s a good chance I have much more in common with those who believe differently and yet love generously. Maybe I should start acting like that’s true.