Ob-ses-sion: the domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.
What's your obsession? We all have one. We are told that obsessions are bad; that we need to be well-rounded people, that is, we need to live life in a balanced way. (Actually I always wanted to be one of those pointy conehead people on SNL, but that's another post for another time.) Now I am all for balance in life depending on how it is defined, but when I read the New Testament, I have trouble finding balance being commended in its pages. Instead I read statements like:
Jesus said, "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." -Matthew 12:30
At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did." -Luke 13:1-5
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. -Philippians 2:7-11
Then there is this statement of Jesus from this week's Gospel Lesson:
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." -Matthew 16:24
Most people are actually obsessed with something. Some are obsessed with making money, other are obsessed with a hobby or two, and still others are obsessed with not being obsessed about anything important; those last persons are obsessed with living a non-productive life sitting on the couch and watching old reruns. I know some persons who obsess over the weekend. Monday through Friday are days of purgatory that will give way to the party that begins on Friday night. There are others who are so obsessed with sports that they will take off their shirts, paint their chests with their team colors, and sit in a football stadium in below freezing temperatures. "Fan" is short for "fanatic."
Much has been and is being made over the decline of the church in the West. Any pastor looking for a book on congregational redevelopment and growth will find more information than she or he can possibly assimilate. We read about techniques and strategies and how to understand generational differences in order to reach, in particular the young folks (which I am coming to see as being greatly overblown). I am sure these things have their place, but what is really missing in all of this is the church's lack of obsession with the Great Commission Jesus has given to his people (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus says to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. Too many folks in the pews are not obsessed with the Great Commission because too many pastors are not so obsessed and they fail to pass that obsession on to their flock; and too many seminary professors are not obsessed with Jesus' last earthly charge to his disciples, and they pass their lack of obsession on to the pastors they train. But Jesus took up his cross for our sake. Can we the disciples of Jesus do less for the sake of the the world?
When I stand before God and give an accounting of my obsession in life, I hope I will have more to show for myself than my golf game (Actually, if you have ever watched me play golf, you will know that I definitely have no obsession in that respect!), I hope I will be able to say that my life in all of its aspects was about giving serious heed to the words of our Lord-- "Go and make disciples of all nations."
So... what's your obsession?
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)