A Native American tourist walks along a New York City street and suddenly stops. He awkwardly bumps into people as he bends low and searches close to the sidewalk. People think he has lost something. A crowd gathers to see what is going on. Just then he plucks a cricket out of a small unkempt flowerbed. He had heard the creature’s distinctive leg chirping and felt like it was a familiar call from home in a strange place.
Most of us would not have heard the sound of a cricket on a crowded city street because our ears are not tuned to such a noise. Which means our hearts are not turned toward such creatures. Which means our attention is not given to their presence around us. Which means our efforts are not directed to their welfare.
One reason we go to a church or synagogue or mosque is to practice listening to the things we believe God cares about. We tune our ears to hear the call of those whose voices are too easily drowned out by the noise of advertisers and entertainers. We listen to be better informed, so that our sympathies will be aroused, so that our lives will be altered accordingly. We do not go to houses of worship to reinforce our comfortable lives.
Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (Deut. 6:4-5).
Jesus joins this central creed of Israel to another: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18), making it the single greatest commandment in two parts. You cannot love God with your whole being if you do not at the same time love your neighbor as yourself.
What does God care about?
In his recent address to the National Prayer Breakfast, activist rock star Bono reminded us that more than 2,100 verses in the Bible speak to God’s care for the poor: “God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill. I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.”
Faith – faith that acts faithfully – begins by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.