by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey
It’s time I get honest with you. Here it is…I’m lousy at obeying God’s rules. Embarrassing, but true. I’m in ministry, so I’m supposed to be good at this stuff. Besides, there are only a couple of things God asks. Jesus, God in the flesh, summarized God’s rules into two commands. All we have to do is love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). I honestly gave it my best shot.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out I was terrible at loving others. As a therapist, I know a lot of lonely people. But I don’t always invite them over or do home visits. And I don’t think all my neighbors know Jesus. I suspect some are on drugs. What is my response? Sometimes I do prayer walks (meaning I pray for them as I walk my dogs past their house). One year I burnt/baked them Christmas cookies. But most days I ignore them. Since I couldn’t find a scripture about Jesus handing out burnt cookies or ignoring people, I had to admit I sucked at obeying this rule.
When I saw my shortcoming with the loving my neighbor thing, I doubled down on my efforts to love God. And I got pretty good at it…most of the time. Until those times when my desire to binge watch YouTube videos over road my desire to pray or praise. This forced me to admit I’m bad at the loving God thing, as well. Uh oh! If I’m bad at loving God and my neighbor, I have a serious problem.
As Elyse Fitzpatrick points out, “Since God declares He hates injustice and it’s an abomination to Him when a guilty person goes unpunished, our only hope of avoiding His just sentence is to obey these two rules.” Problem is, we can’t. Don’t pretend you’re good at it. You aren’t. Getting these rules right demands our mind, will, and emotions all agree in a trifecta of loving obedience. Not just once, but continuously. How are you doing with that? See, we are in the same boat. Left on our own, we can’t please a Holy God. Simple rules (don’t eat that fruit) or complex (love your neighbor), we will fail every time.
And this is why Christmas is something to get excited about. Not because of shopping, gifts, or even family. Christmas is about Jesus and the fantastic news we call the gospel. “When the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman…to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children” (Galatians 4:4-5).
Now, instead of trying to please God (and failing) with the rules, “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ…For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood” (Romans 3:22-25). None of this would have been possible had it not been for God’s love and faithfulness, manifesting in the birth of God’s son, Jesus Christ.
I know once Black Friday hit, most of us went into a Holiday lather. This is a horrible season for loneliness, debt, anxiety, and depression. It’s not supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to be about God’s kindness and mercy in the form of a tiny baby, born to die because we are lousy at following God’s rules. Keep that in mind, and you will find your holiday happy.