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We seem to be a people very skilled in arithmetic.  Oh, we would not see it that way, and we might even say we are not good in math.  But I beg to differ.

Let’s start with addition.  Don’t you find that we’re always adding to our list of essentials, making more and more things seem necessary all the time?  What was once enough no longer is.  The term “less is more” is a recognition of that and a call to return to something simpler.

And boy, are we ever good at taking away.  If the truth doesn’t quite suit our needs, we just overlook a fact or two and we’re looking good once again.

Mulitiplication?  Well, that’s just glorified addition.  It’s cipherin’ on a grand scale!  But division, now that’s not just taking away many times over.  It draws lines.  It separates and categorizes and causes all sorts of trouble.  It creates everything from minor squabbles to world wars.

So this got me to thinking about laws, specifically God’s laws.  He started out just saying one thing, but when people couldn’t handle that, He had Moses write down 10 more.  Then there were a few books written to explain how to live out those 10 essential things.  This was not overkill.  This was necessary.  But here’s the thing:  Some folks got all tangled up in the particulars of the law and they forgot why the laws were written in the first place.  Then, instead of thinking for themselves and applying a few principles to their lives, they became more concerned with the fine points.

Enter Jesus.  He has such a beautiful way of boiling it down.  You know what He said?  He said the most important thing we can do is to love the Lord our God with everything we’ve got.  That’s it.  And when we do that, we will love other people just as much as we love ourselves, which is really quite a bit.

That is the sum total of what God wants of us.  It’s all about love.  We must not take away from what He said, nor should we add to it.  If we do things because of love, it’s love.  If we do things without love, it’s meaningless.  And when we love Him, the rest comes naturally.

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I just watched a movie called Bobby about the assassination of Robert Kennedy.  I was in eighth grade when this tragedy occurred.  I remember that awful era in our nation’s history – the Viet Nam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the rise of drug use, campus unrest, the Cold War.  Hatred was being flung in all directions while free love was the mantra of flower children and hippies.  Authority was questioned.  Materialism was rejected.  Altered reality was embraced.

I especially remember the racial bigotry.  I lived in an all-white neighborhood.  It was in the County of Los Angeles, but our little burg was sheltered from those “others.”  I didn’t see a lot of the hatred in my town because there was really no one to hate.  We were all the same.  You gotta love that.  But we could see the Watts Riots on our local TV stations, and we knew they were just a few miles away.  Fear set in.  They were close.  Too close.

I take comfort in knowing that our nation has come a long way in our racial sophistication.  We embrace multi-culturalism, and if we don’t, we know enough to act the part.  At least in polite company.  Am I right?  We are not driven by that fear anymore, no sir-ee.  We know better.  We are an evolved society.  Bravo!

That was 40 years ago.  But I wonder:  what will characterize our present age?  40 years from now, how will folks remember us?  Are we tolerant and peaceful?  Do we love our neighbor?  Here’s what I think, and I’d welcome your thoughts:  We’re still a nation motivated by fear and disgust, only now we play in the arena of ideals.  We don’t hate because of race but because of creed, be it political, religious, or moral.  At best, we are suspicious of other religions (or no religion) , intolerant of Democrats (and Republicans), and are well-equipped for name-calling when it comes to social issues like abortion, homosexuality, or welfare recipients.

I’m not advocating that we set aside our beliefs and settle for an anything-goes society.  I hope that we can be passionate in our convictions and express them freely.  What I’m calling for is respect.  I want to listen and be listened to.  I don’t want to hear haughtiness or ridicule.  We’re better than that.  We who lived through the 60’s never thought it would get any better, and it did.  But we’re not done.  There’s still work to do.

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