What The World Needs Now is Love

or The Five Most Important Things


Over the years I have been contacted on a variety of topics related to this site. Some were pleasant, others not as much, but the overarching theme has been about "doctrine" or "the pursuit of knowledge". 

The thing most important to people seems to be, "what do you believe?" or "what do they believe?"  If one visits the website of most churches you will find a "statement of faith", or similar document, that spells out the doctrinal views of that particular church. In this way one can select a church that aligns with their own doctrinal perception, or views, and avoid as much internal or external conflict as possible. But one must ask, is doctrine or knowledge the most important thing when deciding on a church?  Is this the best way to find people who will "comfort each other and edify one another" as Paul, Silvanus and Timothy wrote to the Thessalonians?

Oftentimes our personal beliefs are just minor variations of a similar doctrinal concept believed by another, but viewed from a different perspective. Everything we see, taste, touch, perceive and believe, is  relative to us alone and no two persons will ever see things precisely alike. To remain congenial, we must sometimes agree to disagree. We must  be willing to accept one another, despite our differing views, knowing we too are not right one-hundred percent of the time. All we think and perceive is relative to us alone.  God did not intend for mankind to be made in a cookie cutter image.

Einstein conceived of the concept of relativity, in a technical sense, but this concept can carry over to other areas of life as well. One facet of relativity is that we each occupy our own space and no person can ever occupy that exact same space at the exact same time. All part of being human I suppose. As compared to being, say, a quark but quarks may have limits too, not sure, I'll need to ask Pauli that one.

When we view the world we see it from our own relative space and time and, while we may each view the exact same object or doctrine, we have no choice but to view it from a slightly different angle, or perspective, because that is the place relative to us alone. A slightly altered view, by every other person, is inevitable, no matter how close the ties.

If we fail to accept another person's view as being legitimate to them, the differences we perceive between us may become barriers to valid communication. That is not to say all things are true, simply that we are not able to view a concept, or a doctrine, through the eyes of another person. Their words, and our own, being imperfect, may not accurately portray what is actually in their or our heart. Additionally, sometimes things are just plain undefinable so we can only do the best we can to approach a logical explanation. 

Without pointing to a color chart, or a fruit, describe the color orange. Go ahead, do it now, I'll wait. 

Are you done? Was it tough? Great! Orange is not describable without pointing to something orange. But here's a thought, perhaps the color and hue of the orange you perceive looks entirely different than the perceived color and hue of another person. There is no objective test for this, and we'll never know because orange is undefinable in words. It is only defined by viewing that color with our eyes, not knowing if that color atually appears the same to another person's visual cortex. We know one of our other senses, taste, is perceived differently by another person's brain. Some love the taste of bananas, while others find the taste awful. Why could that concept not also translate to color?

Doctrines will perish. Knowledge will perish. All things we see, touch, hear and smell will perish. None of these points of knowledge we cling to have much importance in the eternal, and can actually lead us astray from the five most important things if we cling to them too tightly. Learning is great, I love learning, but when it supplants common decency, tolerance and love we run the risk of  creating divisions, and may even lose our way completely. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

To the Ephesians he wrote, almost in the form of a prayer:

For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

That bears repeating. "this love that surpasses knowledge".

Jesus said to the Pharisees of his day:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness

There are five most important, or weightier things, and these are the first three in that list; justice, mercy and faithfulness. These are likely derived from the writings of Micah:

"With what shall I come before the Lord,and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good;and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

That is truly not a question in Micah. It is a statement. "...to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." These are the first three of the five most important things. Seeking knowledge does not make the list at all. This is wisdom which, like the color orange, cannot be defined with word and must be embraced, not learned.

Who among you claims to be wise and intelligent? Let him show that his actions are the outcome of a good life lived in the humility of true wisdom.

In the ABC we sang these words from Micah 8, yet when I began speaking this message, that the adamant pursuit of a "perfect knowledge" was  creating a lack of peace and love, I found my words  rejected. I found persons would look at me askew, as though I had said something foreign. Eventually I was pushed away entirely. 

God is intangible. Doctrines and knowledge can feel tangible to us, so they are seemingly more comfortable to embrace than wisdom. Believing in an intangible God can feel uncomfortable since we have nothing to grasp and hold onto. We instead attempt to hold onto tangible doctrines in our mind, falsely believing an expanding, or deepening, of our knowledge will gain us a better righteousness. It does not. It only builds knowledge which can decay humility. Solomon fell deep into this trap.

In the armor of God, the breastplate of righteousness is not the pursuit of knowledge, it is faith and love. 

But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation

Even that piece of armor which protects the mind, the helmet, is not the pursuit of knowledge, it is a hope we will achieve a better end. Hope is another one of those intangibles derived from faith and love alone. These three things; faith, hope and charity; are inseparable and indestructible. Everything else will be destroyed, including our adamant doctrines, but not these three.

To put it bluntly, seeking to "deepen our knowledge" is not part of the Fruit of the Spirit. Seeking to "deepen our knowledge" only results in party arguments, divisions and the like. These are works of the flesh. True faith is the accepting of those things we cannot "pin down", those things we cannot fully see or prove, the acknowledging that perhaps quarks really do exist in creation, even though we will never see, smell taste or touch one. It is the acceptance that a God invisible to us is much more vast than we can ever possibly understand. This requires wisdom to comprehend, not knowledge. Moses wanted God to be strictly defined, but God simply said back "I am". That's the best we get too. The rest we just take on faith and hope.

Justice, kindness (mercy) and to "walk humbly"(faithfulness) are the first of the three most important things. But, what does it mean to be "humble"? Jesus summed that up well in a parable.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

We are all in the same boat. I am just as guilty, in the past, of feeling that to please God I must fill up my phylactery with knowledge. I had an epiphany one day, if there is really such as thing as an epiphany, and began to teach there is no test of knowledge at the judgement seat. Knowledge, doctrine, understanding, all of these things, unlike faith, hope and love, will pass away and be burned. An endless pursuit of knowledge must take a back seat to the five most important things. I will disclose that fourth and fifth important thing in a moment.

If we read the second chapter of Colossians we see this same pattern fulfilled:

I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.  My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.  For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

I've never traveled to this area of the world and, lacking a time machine, cannot travel back in time to determine exactly how the Colossians were getting off track, but there are clues. One need not be too specific about this though because this is, after all, a letter written specifically to these people, at that time, and in that place. We are now simply privy to its content and can extract what we can use for our own benefit, even if that is imperfect. That which is perfect has not yet come so we must graciously accept imperfection because that is all we have. We can't read these letters and "find then a law" in them with which we can afflict ourselves or others. It isn't said much plainer than in the letter to the Corinthians, right after it speaks of love;

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

The section of the letter to the Colossians I referenced earlier, is used by the ABC to prove the need for baptism and circumcision of the heart. These are important matters that need understanding, but there is much more written in this letter which holds lasting importance to us  that has not been given it's due.

In the ABC we spoke often of the command to be baptized, then ignored the rest written here about the frivolity of the excess seeking of knowledge, self-imposed worship standards, false humility and the harsh treatment of others. We focused on instituting a specific pattern of worship, appearing to be humble but then, with a pride of purpose, looked down on those we felt less than ourselves. We felt this was righteousness. The flesh loves this because the flesh loves to feel superior. Or as Paul and Timothy wrote to the Philippians:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

We should not let anyone who is falsely humble disqualify us from seeking God. They can't disqualify us, they can  only muddy the waters a bit. On the flip side, when we each consider any other person better than ourselves we will always meet them in the middle.

When Jesus was put to the test about what was the most important thing, this is how he responded, per Mark:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him.  And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Matthew gives a similar account:

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.  And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” 

Luke defines this even further:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” 

I could belabor these points further but, like the color orange, a picture is worth a thousand words. Below are the five most important things written on a chalkboard. In the Old Covenant there are three and in the New Covenant there are just two. These two, extracted from the previous three, can then be boiled down to just one; love. There is a simplicity, not a complexity, in Christ...always! The Old Covenant was not destroyed, it was memorialized in it's place and we have now been freed of it's burdens. We now no longer have a set of rules that bind. Here is that picture:


All of these five things can be encapsulated into the one greatest command: Love.

Love suffers long and is kind

Love does not envy

Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;

Love does not behave rudely, 

Love does not seek its own, is not provoked,

Love thinks no evil; 

Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. 

But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

From the letter to the Corinthians

Paul also wrote to the Corinthians: 

Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.

Paul wrote here about a situation of eating food that had been offered to idols, but he could easily have been addressing a thousand other matters as well. The underlying issue is simply this. Knowledge is not one of the five most important things and it never will be. Knowledge puffs up, knowledge can kill, knowledge is not eternal, knowledge will burn. When we talk of "pinning it down", "diving deeper into the word", or "finding a fuller or better understanding of a scripture or a word meaning", or even the entire Bible itself, this is wood, hay and stubble, not gold, silver and precious stones. In the end, these phylacteries of knowledge we fill in our heads will burn and they provide us no hope of salvation. No one is better than another and these constructs we build of rules, regulations, doctrines, positions, worship orders and the like, are simply not that important. 

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  

Blessed are those who find wisdom