You know it as well as I know it, you have to build a strong, stable foundation in order to build a strong, stable house. The problem for me is that I hate foundation work. I don’t have patience for all that measuring, digging, I especially hate the digging part, bending rebar, pouring cement, etc. I am not sure why, but I want to get on to building the structure, cutting boards and nailing them together, that’s the part I like to see and do. I would rather like to skip over the parts I don’t like and go straight to the exciting and parts I am good at.
You, as I know that skipping over building a good foundation would spell destruction for whatever building I would build no matter how well or wonderfully it was built. I’m not totally sure why I don’t like the process of building a foundation. I am pretty sure it has something to do with my limited amount of patience and also the fact that after all that sweat and labor you don’t have much to look at when the foundation is finished no matter how well it was done.
In order to build a building right, you have to master the basic fundmental that demands that a good foundation is where we need to start. Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi is famous for starting at the beginning with all of his Green Bay Packer teams. “Gentlemen, this is a football.” No assumptions, no skipping over the basics, a solid commitment to getting it right begins with the beginning. We must simply master the fundamentals in order to succeed with anything over time.
In the gospel of Mark, someone came to Jesus with a fundamental question: “Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which is the first commandment of all?’” Mark 12:28 (NKJV)
Jesus answered this man in this way: “Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’” Mark 12:29-31 (NKJV)
Did you catch that last line? “There is no other commandment greater than these.” As much as I would like to go on to more interesting and exciting aspects concerning the faith of Christianity, I have to seriously expend a significant amount of energy getting these two fundamental matters right. I must love God with my entire being and I have to love other people the way I want to be loved. I am concerned that in my haste to move on, I forget that I’ve got to master the basics before building too much on top of an incomplete foundation.
What does it actually mean to love God heart, soul, mind and strength? I find there are too many times I want to love other things more than I want to love God and I must admit I want to create exceptions to loving others the way I want to be loved. It’s clear that I haven’t totally mastered these two fundamentals completely.
Through the rest of the New Testament we are reminded of this principle too many times to ignore. The apostle John in his first epistle makes the awkward point to those to have been too busy to master the fundamentals in their impatience to move on to more exciting vistas of the faith in: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” 1 John 4:20-21 (NKJV)
A liar. Wow, couldn’t you have landed the blow a little softer, John? I looked up the meaning of “brother” hoping to find some wiggle room and it means “literal or figurative”, so the principle is applied to everyone I might come in contact with.
So, how do we be the kind of Christian God wants us to be? The same way a Green Bay Packer (or Seattle Seahawk) becomes a good football player, we have to master the fundamentals. As much as I would rather not, I’ve got to put a good foundation to my faith down before I build something untenable.
Someone hand me a shovel.
Rev. Stephen S. Brown is Pastor of Kenai New Life Assembly of God.