Sometimes, as a church, we need to step back from the busyness of doing church and re-examine the purposes that underlie our activities. When we do this, the best place to turn is to the living and active words of God contained in Scripture. For this particular question, i.e. “why do we do what we do?” we need to rediscover the truths of the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22. However, before we can dig into the text of the Great Commandment, we need to dig into the context of the Great Commandment, i.e. the story behind the Scripture.

Like so many biblical stories, this one begins and ends in the city of Jerusalem. Jesus is spending time with His disciples, teaching them when He is confronted by a group of arrogant religious types with a series of contentious questions meant to trap Him. These were provocative questions about politics and money (should we pay taxes?), life and death (suppose a woman has seven husbands who die . . .), and theology (what is the most important law?). Thankfully, Jesus took the time to humbly answer all of these questions with the wisdom of God’s Spirit, because it is in this context of sinful religious arrogance and testing that Jesus elucidated the Great Commandment:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

This commandment, which can be summed up as loving God and loving people, is the “why” behind our “what.” Everything that we do as a church stems from the desire to love God and love people. If there is any activity in which we engage that we do not do out of love of God and love of people, then we should cease from that activity. The church is not meant to entertain, to distract, to inspire, to legislate, or to do anything else that is divorced from loving God and loving people. So all of the ministry that we do, we do because we love God and we love people; all of the mission in which we engage, we engage because we love God and we love people. When we begin to do ministry for the sake of ministry or mission for the sake of mission, then we begin to practice idolatry. This idolatry makes good things (like ministry or mission) evil because they treat these good things as glorious things, and God refuses to share His glory with our activity. Let us return to the biblical motivation of all that we do; let us love God and love people; let us express that love in our actions.