Some of you are raising, or lowering, your eyebrows right now. You are thinking, “A creed? We don’t do creeds in the Churches of Christ.” But we should know that creeds are not necessarily bad. They are simply summaries of belief. And besides, the creed that I am referring to is not the creed of just any man or church, it is the creed of Jesus himself. Jesus summarizes what it means to follow Him in his creed.
Here it is:
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12-28-31)
Humans complicate things.
I used to laugh with some friends about a 1,000 page book we discovered in the library called “How to read a book.” Really? I guess if you read the book you definitely know how to read one. Too complicated.
Even the famous Idiot’s Guides books are too long for us to read most the time. What does that make us? Anyway…too complicated.
We definitely have made things more complicated in following Jesus. We have complicated and confused the world in what it means to follow Jesus. We have hundreds of denominations, many different creeds, and many of these denominations are not on friendly terms. Too complicated.
I think we need to keep it simple. That’s not my opinion, I’m following Jesus’ lead here.
Jesus gives us the most important commands, or the summary of our faith. The Jesus Creed is:
- Love God with ALL you are (Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength)
- Love others (your neighbor as yourself)
Simple. Following Jesus is not complicated to understand. But we know well that simple does not mean easy. To follow Jesus by loving God and loving others is one of the hardest things to do.
If this is Jesus’ creed, his central teaching, which it is, then how do we make sure we make it the center of our lives and our churches?
In his book The Jesus Creed, Scott McKnight (which I highly recommend) shows the connection between the Jewish Shema and the Jesus Creed. Don’t worry this won’t be too complicated to understand.
The Shema is the sacred creed of Israel which was recited 2-3 times per day by the faithful Jew (and still is). It is mainly from Deuteronomy 6:5-9 which says,
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Jesus took this central creed of Israel, the shema, and made it his own for his disciples. More specifically, he took Deuteronomy 6:4 and added Leviticus 19:18 to get love God and love your neighbors.
We should spend more time reciting the Jesus Creed as the Jews recited (and still do) the Shema. Don’t you think?
The challenge I issued to our church was for us to recite the Jesus Creed every morning and every night for 40 days (which happens to end on Good Friday). We will also incorporate reciting the Jesus Creed in our worship services over the next 6 weeks…and beyond. To make the Jesus Creed central in our minds is a good starting point for being “ALL IN.”
Coming Next…the Jesus Prayer.