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Speaking in Stories
Stories for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers


What's the Point?

Several years ago Hollywood released a movie called Up in the Air. In one scene a young man is about to get married. It’s just a few minutes before the ceremony begins. But he has cold feet. He’s not sure he can go through with the wedding. So a member of the family, played by George Clooney, goes to talk to him. The young man says, “I don’t think I’ll be able to do this.”

Clooney’s character asks, “Why would you say that today?” The frightened young man says, “Well, last night I was kinda like laying in bed, and I couldn’t get to sleep, so I started thinking about the wedding and the ceremony and about our buying a house, and moving in together, and having a kid, and then having another kid, and then Christmas and Thanksgiving and spring break, and going to football games, and then all of a sudden they are graduated and getting jobs and getting married and, you know, I’m a grandparent, and then I’m retired, and I’m losing my hair, and I’m getting fat, and the next thing I know I’m dead. And it’s like, I can’t stop from thinking, what’s the point? I mean, what is the point?”

“What is the point?” is the question behind Mark 12. In that passage, perhaps the most important in the Bible, a religious leader asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” In essence, this religious leader asked Jesus, “Of all the things that clamor for our time, energy, and attention, what is the point? What matters most? What is the bottom line?”

And Jesus told him. But Jesus didn’t mention any of the things American culture deems important. He didn’t talk about career advancement, financial security, physical appearance, health, fame, power, or social status. Instead, Jesus said our life should be focused on relationships—with God and with others. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” According to Jesus, that’s the point.

Years ago I met an exceptionally gifted and extremely ambitious young minister named Ron. If you had asked Ron what mattered most, and he had been honest, he would have said, “Building up an impressive resume.” And he did. Ron has all kinds of degrees, including a Ph.D. He wrote and published numerous articles and even a book. He serves as an adjunct professor of theology at a seminary. He pastors a large, status church. He’s on all kinds of important boards and committees and has been awarded many honors in his community. Ron’s resume is about five pages long of accomplishment after accomplishment.

Several years ago, when I was teaching a seminary class in Ron’s town, he and I had a conversation. A few weeks earlier Ron had undergone serious back surgery from which he was still recovering. During our visit Ron told me about his back surgery. After the surgery Ron dreamed a strange dream. In his dream he died and met God. And when he did, God surprised him. Ron said, “In my dream God didn’t ask me one thing about my resume. God didn’t ask about me about my degrees, my publications, my speaking engagements, or my denominational work. God didn’t even ask me how large my church was. I mean—God didn’t say one word about my resume! Instead, God asked one question only. That question was, “Ron, did you love me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and did you love your neighbor as yourself?” 

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