Branding is one of the most fascinating things of business. When we think of Nike, we think of the slogan just do it. When we think of Apple, we think of innovation. What about the church? What comes to mind when we think of the word church? We may be known for our buildings, pastors, programs, and gatherings, but the question is, is that what Jesus wants us to be known for.
A religious leader approached Jesus and asked him what was the most important commandment in the law. Well, they had 600 commandments in just the first 5 books, so to choose one seems to be incredibly difficult on the surface. Yet Jesus answers it very simply, love God and love your neighbor. In Luke 10, he defines our neighbor as someone not like us, probably someone who is culturally different and in a different social class.
In Mark 12, there is an incredibly interesting unfolding of events that takes place. People are coming to the temple to make there donations. It's an incredbly showy event. It's taking place in the outer courts where all people can be present. There are 13 horns lined up, each to collect for different purposes. It's amazing that Jesus can see exactly how much each person is giving. So for those peeps who can give large amounts of money, you can imagine the applause they receive. Yet this poor widow, drops in two copper coins, each coin worth around 1/100 of a day's wage. Our most common interpretation is that this is a passage about giving all that we have and giving in faith, trusting God's provision in all things. Yes, there is an element of that. However, context is always important in reading the bible, and Jesus strongly rebukes the religious leaders for their pride, desire for power, and using that power to exploit widows out of their property. The religious system was set up for the approval of the public, but not the approval of Jesus! This system took what little this woman had, when instead the collections should have gone to support widows like her! Again, in context, the system did not support the command, love God and love your neighbor. The church in those days were known instead for their leaders, their teaching, their prayers, their religious practices, but they missed on loving their neighbors.!
What about us? If people looked at us, are we known for loving our neighbors? Is that our branding? Are we doing what Jesus wants us to do? What if the way we design our communities and practiced our faith actually hindered this command? May we reflect on the rhythms of our church and our life. May we be known for the things that matter to Jesus. May we be known for loving God and loving our neighbor.