A few weeks ago I introduced the concept of hesed and said that this is the purpose of every Christian. We can boil down who we are to be and what we are to do into two basic ideas: love God and love others. This would seem to be pretty simple when you think about it, but a lot of times we get sidetracked from our primary purpose in this world. While getting sidetracked and focusing on other things in our faith may seem like a small issue, it really has the ability to turn into something dangerous if it’s not held in check.
The gospels recount a lot of stories about people that got sidetracked from their purpose of following God (which is loving God and loving others, just to beat you over the head with it once again). They try to setup Jesus with a situation to get him in trouble with the religious authorities and in the midst expose their agendas and just how far they had strayed from loving God and loving others. Luke recounts the story this way:
“On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.” Luke 6:6–11
This story is hardly believable if you have any conscience at all. The Pharisees in this story were more concerned with promoting their agenda and the “oral traditions” surrounding the law than they were with loving God and loving others. I mean, who would really be upset that someone was healed in such a miraculous way, even if it was on the Sabbath? The danger is that anytime we read these stories we automatically read ourselves in the narrative. But rather than reading ourselves in the role of the antagonist, we read ourselves in the role of the person being healed. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that this is the danger that faces each of us: We prefer our own ideas and agendas to the Bible’s core message. He says, “Has it not again and again become terribly clear in all that we have said here to each other that we are no longer obedient to the Bible? We prefer our own ideas to those of the Bible. We no longer read the Bible seriously, no longer read it as against us but only as for us.”
Sure we may not be upset with Jesus for healing someone on the Sabbath, but what would upset us if He were to be with us physically today? What cultural “hot button” of yours would He push that would really challenge your faith? Would He be able to expose your biases, prejudices and hatred that would show a lack of love for either God or others? Would you be willing to relinquish those securities over to Him once they were exposed? Or would you rather do whatever it took to get rid of Jesus, just like the Pharisees in Luke 6?
These are the thoughts I am currently wrestling with in my own life. I know my tendency is to read myself into the stories as though I would have been faithful to Christ, but I am afraid I may have been in that other group. If you keep on reading to the end of the gospels you’ll see that everyone abandoned Christ in the end. Everyone chose his or her own personal security over showing Christ “hesed.” And we are all kidding ourselves if we believe we would have done otherwise. So what has captured your attention recently that may have taken your focus off the most important issue of loving God and loving others? Are you trying to set others up to fail your personal litmus test of “oral traditions” rather than focusing on the primary issues of loving God and others? If so, are you willing to let that go so that you can get back on course?
 Reflections on the Bible, pg. 17.