Do the Right Thing and Be Known for the Right Thing

ELL, I’ve always enjoyed being a bit of a late adopter. I need to simmer a bit. I need to cogitate. I’m not a company guy who is going to to nod, agree, and immediately adopt the public relations narrative. And that’s not always a good thing.

In preparation for a writing project I’ve been reading through the gospel of Mark on repeat. It’s amazing how things hit you as new or novel that you’ve read before, but haven’t really stopped to think about. That certainly describes my experience with the Mark chapter twelve.

Three groups of religious leaders approach Jesus in this chapter, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Scribes. The first group, the Pharisees, begin with flattery. “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God,” they told him. These are all categories I would like to be known for.

I hope to be the kind of person who speaks the truth, who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, who isn’t worried about appearances, just the Word of God. I like that. I aspire to that. But that’s not where Jesus parked his identity.

Later in this chapter a scribe asks Jesus what is the most important command. Jesus’s response is simple, to love God with all of one’s being and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. That summarizes the law. It also summarizes Jesus’s life. Jesus’s focus was far more internal than external. Far less than being concerned with how they perceived him, he was concerned about love for Got and others.

Yes, Jesus was known for speaking truth, for not bending to others’ opinions, to not being deceived by appearances, and to teaching the Word of God. That’s what he was known for. But what he lived for is summarized in his obedience to these commands, to love God and others. This shows us that if you live for the right things, it’s more likely you’ll be known for the right things.

I think it’s important that we keep this in check. If we live to be right, to not care what others think, to not pay attention to appearances, to be known for speaking truth, then we may not grow in our love of God and others. We might just become self-justified jerks. But if we live for the right things, we will likely become known for the right things. That’s what Jesus did, and I think it is what we should do too.

Let’s live for the love of God and neighbor. If that means people think we don’t live for popular opinion and aren’t swayed by showmanship, then so be it. But our goal is our heart not their perception. That makes a big difference.