As of tomorrow, I will have been writing this blog for seven years. One of my guiding principles in doing so is Romans 12: 18. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” For Christians, this command is binding upon us.
Anyway, because I blog with this verse in mind, I often try to write to as wide an audience as possible. Today, however, as we consider the first confession of the Litany of Penitence, I write specifically to Christians.
There are many who read this blog who do not believe in God. I understand and respect that, and you need read no further, because what comes next will surely seem like foolishness. I get that.
There are also many who read the blog from different faith perspectives. I appreciate that also, and it may well be that the following will apply to you as well. But I would not presume to critique your faith practices from the perspective of an outsider.
For Christians, however, I think this first confession—and indeed the first line of this confession—cuts right to the very heart of the matter. I think it just may be that the larger church, no matter what denomination or non-denomination (or is it just me?), is more in danger of losing sight of God than ever. The first stanza reads:
We have not loved you with our whole heart, and
mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
As commentary on these words, I offer you the following. If you are a Christian devoted to following Jesus, I hope you will join me in thinking about them carefully and deeply, allowing them to correct us where we have gone astray.
Am I correct in asserting that most of our attention and energy spreads out on the horizontal level? We are zealous for creating community, for fostering parish life, for promoting social justice whether at home or on the international level and for all works of mercy and, indeed, we cannot be truly Christians without such concerns. Yet perhaps we should ask ourselves if we are not too taken up with our own initiatives and activities, with our own good works, and fail somewhat in attention to the first commandment, that we must love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength. Unless the first commandment dominates our life and motivates our concerns, then there is danger of our just beating the air.
Ruth Burrows (2011-11-17). Love Unknown: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2012 (pp. 115-116). Continuum UK. Kindle Edition.