Monday, April 16, 2012

Repeat Often

My wife was recently shopping at Costco, the glorious bastion of American consumerism and indulgence. It's the place where you can fill your belly with the free samples while purchasing a 10-gallon jug of mayonnaise. If that sounds is. The patrons of this particular establishment on this particular afternoon literally embodied this sentiment--a large portion of the Costco shoppers were severely overweight. 

This shouldn't be a surprise; more than one-third of American adults are considered obese. Even more disturbing, approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of American children and adolescents are also obese.

In a culture that values immediacy, both fast-food meals and fast-results dieting plans are ubiquitous. If you gain a few extra pounds, don't worry. There is some sort of revolutionary calorie-counting-while-doing-yoga-only-8-minutes-a-day plan out there just for you, and it's all just three easy payments of $29.99.* You could probably buy a few in a package deal at Costco.

All joking aside, it's a significant and complex problem that I believe has a relatively simple solution. Here it is, in three steps:

1) Eat healthy.
2) Exercise.
3) Repeat often.

That's it.

The hardest step to follow is the third one. It's not too difficult to eat one bite of broccoli, or strap on running shoes and walk for a mile one time. It is a much harder task to undertake when one must eat fruits and vegetables for six months, or run a mile three times a weeks for a year. This requires rejecting the cultural value of immediacy and striving for the long-haul. I never said it was easy, but it certainly is simple.

Perhaps our Christian faith is just as simple. There are so many Christian self-help books, speaking tours, church movements getting us back to the real Gospel, and new blogs or podcasts or curriculums that will get us back on track with Jesus, all for a subscription of $29.99 a month.** Maybe following Jesus has been cluttered up with quick-fix answers and programmatic solutions.

The practice of following Jesus is also found in three simple steps:

1) Love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.
2) Love your neighbor as yourself.
3) Repeat often.

In Mark 7, a group of Pharisees chided Jesus and his disciples for eating food without ceremonially washing their hands, and thus ignoring the tradition of the elders. Jesus's response cut to the heart:

Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:   "These people honor me with their lips,
   but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
   their teachings are merely human rules."
   You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.

When I'm tempted to add traditions and practices onto the Gospel in order to fast-track my spiritual growth, I have to remember the basics of what Jesus taught. Love God, love people, and keep striving to do it every single day. It doesn't work to love God two days a year--Christmas and Easter--or to love people whenever they're nice to me and I'm in a good mood. It requires patience and grace and a long obedience in the same direction towards Christ. It requires repetition and self-control, making love a lifelong habit. Success is found in the long-term as spiritual seeds planted deep within our hearts are fostered and blossom with maturity.

Love God. Love people. Repeat often.

Which of those three steps do you struggle with the most?

*Plus shipping and handling.
**Includes a free ebook!

1 comment:

  1. I struggle with loving people. People are dumb sometimes and make mistakes sometimes. It's easy for me to get stuck on that. I'm working on it, and I praise God for the grace He's extended to me. I am undeserving of His goodness and yet its there. People are undeserving of my critique. Good word, thanks Joel.