Matthew 5:1-12, Person on the Hillside
The last line of this reflection says, “God is concerned about who we are, not just how we behave.”
There has been a debate in the church for many years about belonging, believing, and behaving and which comes first (yes, it is like the chicken and the egg argument). It used to be that the accepted order was – behave, believe, belong. You must behave right first, so you can believe and then we will let you belong. But many of us in ministry now believe this formula is backwards. It should be – belong, believe, behave.
I saw a great article that articulated the argument well. It said belonging helps with belief. In our devotional readings, we have seen Jesus reach out to those whom others would never even acknowledge—people like Matthew the tax collector, the Samaritan woman and others like the lepers, the blind men and the demon-possessed (who we have not met yet). Jesus let these individuals know that they belonged—that he loved them regardless of their sin or behavior, even if they chose not to follow him.
One of the most powerful verses comes from the story of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler when this man chose riches over Jesus. Even knowing that this man would not be commit and change his ways, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”
When people received the unconditional love of God, that is when people start believing. They didn’t have to believe to get Jesus’ love and compassion. Rather, they believed because of it. Only after belonging and believing, do people behave. Because they believe, they start behaving in ways that made Jesus proud. Come to think of it, maybe the formula really is – Be Loved, Belong, Believe and Behave.
Who do you know that needs our love so we can start them on the path to Jesus?