Ben Rector Has It Right. I Just Wanna Look More Like Love.

One of my favorite Ben Rector songs is off his new album Brand New. The song is called “More Like Love.”

It ends like this:

I find the farther that I climb
There’s always another line
Of mountain tops
It’s never going to stop
And the more of anything I do
The thing that always ends up true
Is getting what I want
Will never be enough

So I just wanna look more like love
I just wanna look more like love
This whole world is spinning crazy
I can’t quite keep up
It’s the one thing around here
That we don’t have quite enough of
So I just wanna look a little more
Like love

It’s a beautifully-arranged song, with piano mixing well with strings in the background and Ben’s fantastic voice. But the songwriting is the best here. It’s penned with a heartfelt honesty and vulnerability that’s beginning to populate modern music, and I love that, as (all seven of) you who read this blog regularly will know.

I read Titus this morning as I ate my sausage and egg sandwich before showering and heading to work. One of the themes of Titus is “good works” – that phrase itself or a slight variation is mentioned five times in the text of the letter:

  1. “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works…” (2:7)
  2. “…our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (2:14)
  3. “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work…” (3:1)
  4. “…I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works…” (3:8)
  5. “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” (3:14)

Pondering the emphasis on “good works” made me think of my life and the good works that I’m doing. Or am I doing any good works? What does “good works” look like? What’s the basis for my good works?

Sometimes I feel like our “good works” often become our ability to not do bad things. And I don’t think that’s the point of pursuing obedience, of pursuing Christ. Pursuing good works is about intentionally setting our mind to doing good things for other people, to honor God, to serve the world.

And that’s where Ben Rector’s song becomes a good tentpole for our aim. What does love look like?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

This kind of attitude is at the base of every good work. Against love, there is no law. Pursuing loving others is the highest of callings, and it’s the calling we have as Christians.

It’s being patient and kind with one another. It’s pushing aside pride and boastfulness. It’s putting others first, rejoicing at what is true, bearing, believing, hoping, enduring. It’s echoing Christ’s love of us towards others.

If we pursue those things, we’ll start to look a little more like love.

Following Jesus For Other People to See vs. Having a Good Witness

As I’ve been reading through the Gospels, I’ve seen some pretty awesome things I never really spotted before. I’ve written about a few of these on this blog in the last couple weeks. There’s also been some things I’ve seen that have convicted me, that have shown me just how much I fall short of being obedient.

See, I’m a Pharisee at heart. I think it’s one of the possible curses you get from growing up in a church context your whole life. Most of the time you go one of two ways: you get super self-righteous or you ditch the whole thing.  I took that first path. My religion became man-centered. Not around me, but around others.

I’ve mentioned in blogs before how I’ve struggled with a Pharisaical attitude most of my life. I’ve even seen it in my heart in the last few days. I do my Christianity so other people can see. I say things that people want to hear. I do things that people want to see. There’s a fine line between “having a good witness” and “following Jesus for other people to see.”

“Having a good witness” is something my old youth pastor taught me and has been very influential in my life. Do you show yourself as a Christian when you’re around others? How do you speak/act around others? Is it honoring to Jesus? “Following Jesus for other people to see” is the same basic idea, but it’s not honoring to Jesus. That’s the key difference: for whom you’re doing it. “Having a good witness” is living a life that shows others that you value Jesus most. “Following Jesus for other people to see” is living a life that shows others that you value their opinion of them most.

Look at the Pharisees. Several times in the Gospels we see that they have desires to do something, but it would make the people mad if they did, so they withhold.

  • Mark 14:2 – Chief priests want to arrest and kill Jesus, but they avoid it during Passover “lest there be an uproar from the people.”
  • Mark 12:12 – They wanted to arrest Jesus “but feared the people.”
  • Matthew 21:26 – Jesus asked them a question about authority, and they didn’t answer a certain way because they were “afraid of the crowd.”

Fear of man drives a lot of our actions, whether it’s an active decision like the Pharisees or something subconscious we just go to. And there’s sometimes fear is justified. If someone comes at me with fists ready to fly, and I have no business fighting him and I’m freaked out, I’m running. No question there, I will submit to my fear of that man.

But if my Christianity is dictated by wanting to please other people, I am sorely misguided. I am often this way. I say things for the approval of others, or I don’t say certain things in fear of what Christians might think. Honesty here: there have been things I’ve wanted to write about on this blog that I have withheld from writing because I don’t know how certain people will respond. That spits right in the face of the transparency and vulnerability I preach.

Soon I will write about those things.

However, the Pharisees did get something right. They read Jesus like a book. Mark 12:14 – “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.”

May that be said of me!

It’s a common thing to worry about what people think of us, I’m finding. Particularly in the Christian culture. I, as a “religious person,” feel like I need to be constantly aware of everything I’m saying and doing. Not a terrible thing, necessarily, but if it becomes a fear of upsetting people, which I’m afraid it has, that doesn’t help anyone. All it does is lead me to living a life of fear and concern that is not healthy.

Then that Pharisee comes out. It’s a self-justified fear where I give myself license to not be myself for the sake of not rocking the Christian boat too much. It seems to me like we in the church fear any rocking of that boat, like just one little shake will sink the whole ship. Didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 16:18 that the “gates of hell shall not prevail” against the church? The church isn’t that fragile. Man may be that fragile, but I don’t think the church is.

Sorry, I got a little side-tracked.

I must grow to obey Jesus for Jesus’ sake, not for others. In that, God gets glory. Plus, it’s more joyful that way.

P.S. I think “Pharisaical” is one of my favorite words in the English language.