Jan 11th Devotion

Missing the Forest for the Trees
By Debbie Holloway

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: ”‘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" (Matthew 22:36).

I just read an article about how being technically "overweight" might not actually, in and of itself, carry a higher mortality risk. It discussed how previously established governmental standards of healthy, "normal" weight might have sprung more from our society's visual obsession with thinness, than with any inherent physical dangers of weighing more than your neighbor.

As mind-blowing as this conclusion may seem, perhaps the real problem isn't a number on a scale. Perhaps it's when too much extra weight for a person’s body brings on unnatural fatigue, immobility, illness, or discomfort. Perhaps the problem is eating too much, or too poorly, for our bodies to function correctly.

Perhaps we're missing the big picture of health and wellness and zooming in too close on the raw numbers of weight.

I would venture to say that we do that in our spiritual lives as well. Perhaps you’ve diagnosed a fellow believer as having a spiritual "illness" – let's say they don't attend church on Sunday morning. Knowing only this raw data can lead to a judgmental shake of the head, with a sigh of "Hebrews 10:25!"

But, if you were to ask this person about their health and habits, perhaps you might be surprised. But I do meet together with other believers regularly, they may say, citing a weeknight Bible study or regularly occurring night of intentional fellowship. I travel weekends for my job, so traditional church is pretty impossible, they might say. There are many things they might say, many things that might remind us that a single suspicious tree might not be representative of the forest of someone’s life.

Jesus said that everything we learned from the Law and from the Prophets could be summed up like this:

Love God.
Love other people.

This is the Forest. Everything else is merely a Tree within it.

If there is something in your life causing the Forest to suffer, only then can a problem be properly diagnosed (and, rest assured, if we ignore things like fellowship, worship or prayer for long enough those things will suffer). However, sometimes we get a little too focused on smaller things and forget about the bigger picture. We forget about the Forest, so preoccupied have we been on individual Trees.

Intersecting Faith and Life: Perhaps your individual Trees line up. But how is your Forest looking these days? A little too much like a Christmas tree farm? Rather than focusing on the good-Christian-checklist of your day, ask a trusted friend or mentor whether your life truly could be described as loving God and loving people unselfishly.
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