I was recently rereading C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, where, in a couple places, he makes the point, “The longest way around is the shortest way home.”
We are wired to take the short path, the shortest route, the easiest way to get to our destination. HARD is a word we don’t want in the journey if at all possible. I mean, why do something hard when you can do it easy? To Lewis’ point, sometimes the harder, longer path will be the one that gets us home.
Part of my premise in this post demands we define what “home” is. I would argue that home is the place where our core being has made contact with who we are meant to be. Before you think I’ve gone off the new-age spiritualistic cliff, I simply mean that we make contact with God’s greatest desire for our life. The thing inside of us all “glows” because the way/reason we were created makes contact with our Creator.
What is this desire of God’s? You might think he wants us to behave in a holier way, or go to church more often, or stop drinking, cussing, and carousing as much (if you do those sorts of things). You might even be led to believe that God’s greatest desire is that you start praying more, reading your bible more, or have a regular quiet-time.
I would suggest, if these are your visions of what God wants, then you’ve set your bar way to low.
In the scriptures, we can read where Jesus is confronted by a religious expert. This is a guy that thinks he can corner Jesus with his vast knowledge of the scriptures, his memorization of all the ways to live a pleasing life for God, and he likely lives a pretty pure life himself (or at least as close as you can get). He asks Jesus to pick the most important law (or way to live). Jesus comes back with the long way around. “‘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.” (Matt. 22:37-40)
To summarize, Jesus says that LOVE, loving God and loving others, is what all the law hangs on. Everything that they knew about following God, worshipping God, pleasing God, living as a God-follower, hinged on these two acts of LOVE. So why is this the “long way around?”
Love may seem like a soft word, a gushy word, a oozy word, a word that feels like holding on to jello. If you’re a man, love may seem like something that only girls do, or if you’re a woman, it may be a word that immediately makes you want to turn on the Hallmark channel. I would propose to you, that LOVE is the long, long, long, way around, and also the way home.
To love others is a very hard thing to do. If you don’t agree with this statement, then perhaps you don’t spend enough time in relationship with others you disagree with. Whether it be family, friends, co-workers, or neighbors, loving someone else is hard. You have to make contact with and practice words like forgiveness, empathy, healing, patience, understanding, and respect. You to be others-focused and put down your own agenda. You have to ask how Jesus would treat a person rather than ask how the “law” would treat them. When we love others the way Jesus is suggesting in this passage, then we are making the conscience decision to put down a verse about what they do wrong, and pick up this verse about love. What Jesus is saying is that every verse that displays their sin, is living under the umbrella of the statement, “…love your neighbor as yourself.” Yes, love is very hard, a very long way around, but the way home.
My dad’s mother was called Memaw. She loved her grandkids in a special kind of way. No matter what mistakes we made, no matter how we were living, there was always a spot on the couch next to her where she would embrace us in her arms, rub our back, and tell us how much we were loved. No matter our age, we crave this kind of love. It’s not dependent on the perfection of our life, it is given to us in spite of it. It’s that grandma kind of love, where no matter what we do, we are still nestled in her arms and told, “it will be ok.” We all want this love that forgives and breathes new life into us because another person sees our value and our heart for life. This kind of love feels like home, whether a man or woman, boy or girl, this love is the unrestricted and unmerited favor of another. It is home for us, because it is how God loves us. What we want, others want also, and Jesus asks us to give it.
As we encounter people, those that have different viewpoints from us, those that live differently, those that have different orientations and beliefs, those that are a different political party, just remember, that this Jesus you claim to follow wrapped up all of scripture into a couple statements that both begin with the word LOVE. To love God is to follow what he says and to give you whole life to him (worship – Eph. 2:10). He adds, that to love him is to also love others. When you are face to face with that person different than you, it will be hard to put down your verse about their life and pick up simple LOVE, but it’s what has been instructed by God. It’s the place he wants us to live, the place we belong and the place others belong also, because it feels like home. It’s hard and long to get there, but it’s better.
The long way around is the shortest way home…LOVE.