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The Both-And Gospel

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:39-40 NIV, emphasis added)

I love to prioritize. I’m not always good at it, but I subscribe to the principle of spending your best brain time focusing on your most important thing. On weekdays, my “ONE thing” is writing: time working on a novel that I’m trying to sell. That might be composing words, editing, brainstorming, planning revisions, or outlining a new story, depending on the stage each of my works in progress is in.

But of course, I’m also a mom/wife/household manager. The first thing I do on school days is make sure my kids get dressed, eat an adequate breakfast, and walk to school on time. It often uses all my brain power (and patience) to do it.

I will always be a mom, and I will always want to be a writer. Which is the more important role? The answer is… both. I can’t neglect either one.

An expert on the law asked Jesus which was the most important commandment (Matthew 22:36). It’s possible the Pharisee was trying to trick Jesus to make him look bad, but someone who’d studied so much of God’s law might well have wanted to know whether he could slack off on a few less important ones. At any rate, Jesus refused to give him just one. Love God and love your neighbor.

Shortly after the Pharisee posed his question, Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Jesus calls us to practice justice, mercy, and faithfulness, and to obey God’s law.

How are we saved? By grace and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9)? Or by “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine” (Matthew 25:31-46)? James 2:24 says, “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone” (NIV). Both faith and deeds.

This was brought home to me in a recent article, where the author asks some of the modern equivalents—questions that have divided denominations.

Which is more important for Christians: preaching the gospel or pursuing justice? What is the primary purpose of the church: making disciples or serving the poor?

You get the picture. The Christian life is a high calling with no shortcuts. It is both incredibly simple and incredibly difficult. But Jesus also tells us how to do it.

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:26-27 NIV)
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