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Simple faith: Love God, love thy neighbor

Faith -- what is faith anyway? Oh, we know the definition, "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

Do you remember how you felt when you were very young and your birthday approached? You were excited and anxious. You knew you would certainly receive gifts and other special treats. But some things would be a surprise. Birthdays combine assurance and anticipation, and so does faith! Faith is the conviction based on past experience that God's new and fresh surprises will surely be ours.

The beginning point of faith is believing in God's character. He is who he says. The end point is believing in God's promises. He will do what he says. When we believe that God will fulfill his promises even though we don't see those promises materializing yet, we demonstrate true faith.

Remember Abraham? God told him he would have descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky or the grains of sand in the sea. It took many years for God to even give Abraham a son that would begin that long line of progeny. And then when his son is a teenager, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham had to have thought, "Now, how will God fulfill the promise of all those descendants?" Yet, we are told Abraham moved to carry out God's command and just in the nick of time (pardon the pun), Isaac was saved.

Simply said, faith is living out our belief in God and his Son. Faith does not need to be complicated.

The prophet Micah got it right. He said, "What is pleasing to the Lord: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." Another way to say this is: 1) remain honest in all you do; 2) cherish compassionate faithfulness; 3) commit yourself to live in submission to your God. Very simply stated, do what is right, treat others with love and grace and don't be arrogant or prideful.

How simple! Really, we have a simple faith. How simple is our spiritual walk with God. How simple we are to live our lives. How complicated we make it. Why do we feel like we have to make it complex, with lots of rules, exclusions, and separateness. Nowhere does Jesus say, "OK, Peter you take these people and start a church here with these rules; you, Andrew, take these people and go over there with these different rules and start your own church; and you Matthew take these people and go in that direction over there and have these yet again different rules. The divisions amongst the Body of Christ deeply sadden me. And we perpetuate this separateness in each of our denominations by our teachings in Sunday School and Confirmation and the process we use for ordaining pastors. Each denomination teaches their dogma, polity, traditions, rituals etc. And the separateness continues, handed down generation to generation. Can't we just teach what Jesus said was most important?

What did Jesus say? The first and great commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 22:37-40

Simply: Love God, Love Neighbor!

When will we decide that what Christ wants is for us to LOVE GOD and LOVE NEIGHBOR. If you are loving God and loving neighbor, you will "do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God." And we would include everyone in a loving embrace.

I've been accused of being naïve and having a simple faith, but it seems to me that Jesus made this following him - simple - difficult maybe, but simple. Love God, Love Neighbor! Let's all live our lives with love to all.