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.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34.
What’s the most important thing to do? We ask ourselves that every day. Is it the housework, the job, bringing in more money, preparing for retirement, doing community service, taking care of our family, getting our children to do well? Our competing priorities whirl in our heads, and we just go forward, putting out the next fire.
Jesus says here that what is most important is to love God with all our heart, and to love our neighbor.
But what does that look like, practically? Being regular in church attendance? Trying to live a good life? Reading our Bible? Remembering to touch base with a friend? Having a neighbor over for dinner? Volunteering at the food bank?
And how do we fit that into our lives when we have a demanding job, a family to raise, classwork to complete, a house to take care of, errands to run . . . not to mention a body to keep in shape!
I think the answer is in learning to be centered in God.
I’ve been reading John 15. It basically states the same concept, that the most important things are to love God and our neighbor. But Jesus words it here like this:
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you” and “Love each other as I have loved you.” (v. 4, 12)
Remaining is being centered. See how Jesus describes it:
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. . .
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. . . . .
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. . .
This is my command: Love each other.”
When we are centered in Christ, it’s our lifeblood to be connected to Him. And then we are LOVED, and we LOVE. It’s all bound up together.
Being centered is like breathing. We inhale Him as our sustenance. We exhale into meaningful action.
And when we are not centered, all our efforts, all the things we accomplish, are for nothing.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Being centered is fruitful. It is life giving.
I read a great article on the Sabbath by John Mark Comer on how the Sabbath was created to center and revive us:
“The Sabbath has a life-giving ability to procreate — to fill the world up with life. No matter how much you love your job or fine-tune your work/ life balance, by the end of the week, you’re tired. Your fuel cells are on empty. But rest refills us — with energy, creativity, vision, strength, optimism, buoyancy, clarity, and hope.”
This is a great concept. But I would take it one step further. Having a relationship with God, having unity with Christ, having fellowship with the Spirit, brings rest, and can refill us continuously throughout the day.
We remember God. We make space for Him in our heart. And in that place, the Spirit bubbles up in us. We are refreshed. We are inspired.
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37
So here are a few practical ways I’ve found to be centered:
- Take a deep breath and remember Christ is in your heart. Hold him close and dear. Do this many times a day.
- Pray for strength and guidance often. It’s amazing how often I try to gut it out, instead of doing this.
- Spend time on your knees. Be quiet before Him. After awhile, everything will fall into perspective.
- Read through Bible verses, or recall verses you’ve memorized. It feels like the scales are falling off of your eyes. You remember what is good and true.
- Go out into nature, smell the flowers. You will see God’s face.
- Listen to music that moves you spiritually. It communicates deep truths.
- Express your thanks to God in specific ways. It’s amazing to me how helpful it is to keep a gratitude list and add to it daily.
- Slow down and focus on each person as if they are the most important thing in the world.
This past weekend I wasn’t feeling well. When I awoke Sunday morning in lowness of spirit, I went outside to lift my heart to God. It was so comforting to stand in the back yard, listening to the hushed rush of the wind among the trees, feeling the damp cool air of fall, and thank God for what He has given me. I didn’t want to petition Him for anything. I just wanted to think of each person I love, each blessing I’ve received, and thank God for them.
I went back inside and read John 15.
And then I went to church. This time, instead of darting from person to person and thing to thing, I immersed myself in the importance of each person. And I felt the solid truth of it. This was more vital than any “burnt offering,” than any of the busy tasks I could set myself to do to serve God.
I felt energy well up within me.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11
Being centered brings joy and life on the inside. It replenishes us in the places we’ve been depleted.
It is something we can do all through the day, no matter how busy we are.
It is how we live out what is most important.
It is the way we were designed, to be connected to God, and fruitful through Him.