From Lead Pastor Matt Adair:
If you do a Google image search on ‘painted rocks’, you’ll find a universe devoted to painting pictures of animals on rocks. Some of the artwork is remarkable in its quality and at times you feel like you’re looking at something that is really alive. But in the end all you have is a painted rock, a dead reality masquerading as real life.
Coming out of Jesus’ message to love our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37) this past Sunday, I have two concerns for us: punting and painting. For some of us, the temptation we face is to punt Jesus’ command over a fence and hope it gets lost in the weeds of our hectic life. The truth is that as life slows down during the summer and we find time to take vacation, we (unintentionally?) find ourselves taking a break from Jesus and the life he calls us to live as part of his family.
And while I’m deeply troubled by our collective propensity to set Jesus off to the side while we rest on the beach or hike the mountains or take the kids to Disney, I’m just as concerned that we’ll spend our summer painting rocks, mastering the art of religion because it feels like real life. Some of us are very good at acting like we love our neighbor (particularly compared to other people!) even as our hearts become more petrified with anger towards pathetically needy people and the God who should be able to handle this without bothering us and messing up our lives.
If you walked away from Sunday’s message believing that God wants you to just get on with the business of loving the people he puts in front of you, don’t be surprised if you end up agitated at God for making you do something you wouldn’t do if he hadn’t threatened you with hell and damnation. If the primary goal of loving people is to get God off of your back or to somehow convince him to love you, prepare to be disappointed or devastated.
Religion - loving your neighbor because you have to convince God that he should love you - will never turn you into a loving person. Because all you’re doing is painting a pretty picture over your stone cold heart. And if you’re wondering whether you’re painting rocks, riddle me this: are you loving your neighbor because you want something from God - blessings, rewards, escape from judgment - or do you love your neighbor because that’s the place and posture where God’s love for you is revealed for you in ordinary, everyday life?
When I love people in the name of religion, the rocks I paint end up looking like pride or fear - pride at how good I am at loving people or fear that I’m not loving as well as I’m supposed to be loving. And it’s not long before pride metastasizes into impatience with those who don’t love as well as I love. Or despair drowns itself in an attempt to self-medicate and hide the naked reality of my lack of love for other people.
Thankfully, there’s another way to live besides painting rocks. The Christian message we call the gospel reminds that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more and nothing we have done will cause God to love us less. It’s his love that makes us alive and enables us to grow in genuine love for God and neighbor. We don’t have to create a religious facade to hide what’s dead inside; we’re free to love authentically because God’s love for us in Christ is breathing new life into dead parts of our soul.
We love because he first loved us - I John 4:19