When it comes to being church for the world, I’m off on a K.I.S.S. for Jesus campaign. That is, “Keep It Simple Silly (or the harsher version, “Stupid”) for Jesus ….
In all of the gospels the gist of things is quite simple, though not necessarily easy and definitely challenging. In each of the first three gospels we have an episode where Jesus asserts or affirms that LOVE is central to everything (check out Matt. 22:34-40; Mk. 12:28-34; Lk. 10:25-29). More precisely a two directional or two dimension love stands at the center—love for God with our whole being and love for neighbor as for self. All of the texts underscore the priority of such love—more important than all the sacrifices we might offer, that on which all the law and prophets hang, and essential for the life of the age-to-come. Keep It Simple Silly—it’s about all-encompassing love for God and extravagant love for neighbor.
Jesus did not innovate by identifying this simple core theology and life style. Even his opponents could make the connection between vertical and horizontal expressions of love and name its priority. Yet, in Jesus the simple core undergoes a reconfiguration with seismic practical consequences.
- In Jesus, neighbor-love becomes the measure of God-love. John would later spell it out—how can you say you love God, whom you cannot see, when you do not love your neighbor right in front of you? (see 1 Jn. 4:20-21) Jesus’ kingdom reorders everything. First becomes last and last becomes first. What seems secondary suddenly turns primary. Clearly God ranks above any and all mortals. Undoubtedly God comes first. Even so, there is no loving God apart from loving neighbor. And the degree of our actual love for God registers most profoundly on the reach of our love toward the neighbor.
- In Jesus, love for neighbor expands in radically inclusive ways. Not just those who are near, whether by blood or geography, but also those who are far—crossing boundaries of family, clan, community, and nation. Likewise, not just to the known and familiar, but to the unknown and strange. And not just to the friend, but even to the enemy. In fact, “neighbor” could be anyone. In fact, Jesus revises the key question. “Who is my neighbor?” becomes “Who acts neighborly?” Here again the
reorders things—first becomes last. Thus, the degree to which we love neighbor (thus reflecting love for God) in reflected most accurately in the reach of love toward those farthest away, toward the enemy.
- In Jesus, we have a picture of what this looks like. No one would question His love for God. Yet, strangely (or not) the most powerful and vivid enactments of love are toward other people (rather than God). He stoops at the feet of the 12, including the betrayer, and loves their feet clean. He scans the crowd scorning him as he hangs on the cross and prays, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
- In Jesus, this love—simple, pure, and primary, can come to a fullness of expression that mirrors none other than God’s own love. Jesus said, “They will know you’re mine by how you love one another.” He called them to follow him on his love-journey. “As I have loved you, you must love one another.” It’s the love that moved Stephen to pray for his murderers in the very way Jesus did. It’s the love that Paul celebrates—that more than conquers and that, in the end, will prevail.
So, K.I.S.S. for Jesus. Keep it simply silly. Let’s seek and show them!