There is considerable distance between talking about following Jesus and actually following Jesus. If you’ve ever wondered why our wider culture is so skeptical of churches, this is an essential distinction to wrap your head around.
Nowadays, everybody has access to the bible. Everybody knows what Jesus was about. So, non-Christians are left scratching their heads as to why those who claim to follow Jesus bear so little resemblance to him.
The early church community in Ephesus struggled with a similar problem. Some of the community’s leaders had taken to “meaningless discussions and speculations.” Because they were wasting the community’s time on things that don’t matter, the people weren’t growing. They weren’t changing. Their capacity to follow and be like Jesus wasn’t expanding.
According to Paul, that doesn’t have to be the case! His advice is simple: whenever your community gets together, you just need to focus on what matters most.
What matters most? Love! Specifically love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.
If our modern communities spend our time together focusing on love like that, we too will grow. We too will change. We too will see capacity our to actually follow and be like Jesus expand.
If we if get to that point, when the wider culture looks at us they’ll no longer a bunch of hypocrites who have missed the point of the guy they claim to follow. Instead, they’ll see a community of people who have bridged that great divide are ACTUALLY following Jesus.
May it be so!
1 Timothy 1:1-7 (New Living Translation)
This letter is from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, appointed by the command of God our Savior and Christ Jesus, who gives us hope.
I am writing to Timothy, my true son in the faith.
May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.
When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.
The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently.