Be careful, then, to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
Blessed are they who observe his decrees, who seek him with all their heart.
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
As I read the readings for today I was struck by the call to full commitment in all three readings. This theme fits our Lenten season very well. Lent is a time for us to refocus and recommit.
We see in the gospel message that full commitment pushes us to act in ways that would otherwise seem strange. Praying for our enemies?! Why should we do that? Jesus tells us that in so doing we act as children of God. In other words, we live up to our heritage and become more fully the people we were created to be. Jesus challenges his followers by showing them (and us) that there is much more to living for God than we often acknowledge. He has so much more for us to experience and be – and grace to make it possible.
I am reminded of an insight I had when I was attending a national 4-H event as a kid. Many kids who attended from my area were hanging back. They would get involved in the activities only to the extent required and then retreat to talk together or make light of the whole event. It seemed to me that the kids who were really getting into it were having a much better time than we were, so I decided that I was going to jump in full force. What a difference! What seemed boring when I was only half-engaged became fun and interesting. Dallas Willard (1990, The Spirit of the Disciplines) argues that many of us struggle with following the decrees of Christianity because we’re trying to do it part-way. We think that we can keep most of our lives the same as others around us and just follow a few key commands. Following the commands in this scenario becomes burdensome because the commands are extra demands required of us. Those same commands, though, become something quite different when we set our hearts on full commitment and thankfully receive the help of the Spirit to live completely differently.
Lord, your ways are not our ways. Help us to joyfully seek to follow your ways with our whole being. Help us to discern how and why we hold back. We thank you that you offer us rest and wisdom as we seek to become more perfect in all our ways.
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