The Jesus Creed book project is now 10 years old, and Paraclete was kind enough to produce a 10th Anniversary edition — which has a new Preface (describing my experience of using and teaching the Jesus Creed since it first appeared) and we reduced the book to 24 chapters (instead of thirty). And a wonderful new cover.
Kris and I can’t think of the Jesus Creed without thinking of Lil Copan, my editor, Carol Showalter and Pam Jordan and Lillian and Bob Gibson and all the good folks we have enjoyed at the Community of Jesus in Orleans Mass.. We began with a launch at North Park and speaking invitations came in and I developed a blog (and used the name of the book) and … well… our life changed to speaking and traveling and working hard to make ideas accessible to lay folks. We are profoundly grateful for the gift this book has been to us.
Pastors have written in about using the book in churches; one person after another has written to me about it; and perhaps most important is the focus it gives each of us to find the core of what Jesus wants us of us — to love God and to love others.
The most memorable Jesus Creed experience was after speaking about it at North Point Community Church in Atlanta and young man and his wife approached me, and the man was struggling to speak, but eventually got it all out: “Our marriage was on the rocks, I was ready to file for divorce, but someone suggested we try saying the Jesus Creed together, and we are here today to thank you for a practice that not only saved our marriage but made us a happy couple again. Thanks.” He and she gave me a big hug and I was grateful for the role the book played in their marriage.
As you may know I often begin my classes reciting the Jesus Creed, which is this:
Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31).
The soul formation element of the Jesus Creed is reciting it daily — morning, midday and evening/bedtime — so that it works its way its ways into your bones. In this way it comes to mind when we most need it — on the highway while driving, in the home when tempted to argue, in the neighborhood when someone taxes our patience, with children when they are — well, children. It comes to mind only when it has been recited often enough to attach itself to us as ligaments do to bones.
Some of you are now thinking about Lent (or even Advent), and our intergenerational Jesus Creed project is a great way to focus your Lenten season and Lenten services. As we turn to the cross and resurrection, where God showed his love and grace to us, we can turn our lives toward the God of Holy Week by focusing our hearts and minds and souls and strength toward loving God and loving others.
The major discovery of the Jesus Creed was while teaching college students and I begin to see it far more pervasive in the life, deeds and teachings of Jesus than I expected. From the Sermon on the Mount’s “Golden Rule” to the Parable of the Good Samaritan to those with whom Jesus had table fellowship to the overt teaching of the Jesus Creed in Mark (Matthew and Luke), and not to ignore the presence of it in James, in John’s own version and in Peter. The Jesus Creed formed the core of the earliest Christians’ way of life. In the last first century (or whenever you date it), The Didache makes it up front and central.
It may seem so simple. Yes, I agree, but I would also say this: nothing is more complex and nothing more profound than the challenge of Jesus for his followers to be formed in love — for God and for others. No more, no less. It is easy to love people we like; it is difficult to love people we don’t like. Jesus calls us to love both groups because of God’s love for us and our love for God.
The Jesus Creed has been used in more than 4000 churches, and now (as I announced earlier this week), the project is completely done: we have materials for each age group in the church. We have one for children (Sharing God’s Love), for young adults (Jesus Creed for Students), for a devotional (40 Days Living the Jesus Creed), and the core project itself (The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others).
Why not us? why not now? It begins today when you begin the routine of reciting the Jesus Creed morning and evening (and whenever it comes to mind). This I promise: It will be dangerous to current moral health!