I have talked about Mike Holmes from the HGTV series Holmes on Homes in sermons before. Mike is a burley man who is most often seen in a pair of simple overalls. His exterior image is very different from what you find out about him by watching the show, for he is in fact a caring and almost soft-hearted individual. The premise of the show is that he goes into homes of people that have experienced either poor building practices or unscrupulous renovation contractors.
Mike’s motto is, “Make It Right!” As one who loves these types of programs and enjoys construction, this show is always engaging. This past week when I was watching, I realized that there is a common thread in what Mike Holmes discovers. Often the problems aren’t from outright neglect. Instead, many of the problems he fixes are found to be within the approved building code. Minimum code enforced by the government is just that, a minimum, basic or the lowest possible amount or degree of something.
As you can imagine, many builders build to the minimum not only because it is allowed, but more importantly, to build to a higher standard would cut into profits. This sense that minimum is ok is something that our culture is embracing to a maximum degree. I believe we have become a society that not only allows people to live up to minimum standards, but in fact encourages it. An employee that pours his or her heart into their work is seen as a chump, and becomes quickly discouraged by the fact that those who do only enough to get by, are rewarded the same way.
I was particularly struck by this minimum code reality last week when the Penn State report came out. I’m not familiar with the details of the report and will not presume to have a legal opinion. Nevertheless, one thing struck me in this sad story of abuse. It seems that all along the way, the people who were in positions to do something chose to do the minimum. Of course the ongoing debate is why was this the way things went down. Some will say that it was out of a sense of loyalty to friends. Others will say it was due to the fact that the institution was seen as more important than the individuals. Finally, it may have been the cult of personality surrounding Joe Paterno that caused people do only what they had to. Regardless of the reason, the fact remains that the minimum in this situation was far from enough. If the reports or true, people from within the halls of power in Happy Valley to those who cleaned the halls, didn’t do enough.
This is an important place for us to learn a lesson. As those who follow Christ, we have an example of going above and beyond the minimum. In Christ, God gives us an example of doing whatever it takes to, “Make It Right.” In the Penn State saga, there were people who had the opportunity to prevent further damage to children, but instead chose to do nothing or to do the minimum. Each had their own reason for not going above the call. Many of those excuses are wrapped up in the fact that they most likely saw too much personal risk if they did more than the minimum. Like the builders, the cost is too much for them to bear. Our example, Jesus Christ, shows us that there is no risk, personal or institutional, too big to not do the right thing. Perhaps these words from Jesus, found in the fifteenth chapter of John, illuminate this point:
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.”
Is minimum love the way you want to be loved? Christ calls us all to take risks in our love of others. The reality of Penn State should be a reminder to each of us, that our sacred calling is to follow Christ in the way of his love. Christ’s love is more than willing to take risks. In fact, as we read Scripture, we come to realize that all of his life, Christ was at risk. Yet, he still chose to follow the mission of God in his life and to gladly bear the risk.
Are you willing to take risks to make the world right?
“This sense that minimum is ok is something that our culture is embracing to a maximum degree. I believe we have become a society that not only allows people to live up to minimum standards, but in fact encourages it.”
So incredibly true – I would note the current status of education as another example. And it leaves us far short of the mark of so much potential.
I think it goes a bit towards expectation level. I harken back to an Easter sermon you did about expectation (2009? 2010?). People only live up to the minimum because no one has set an expectation for anything better. And funny, when you do set an expectation at a higher level what often happens?? It is met. When you take your faith with you, you can use that to risk doing better than the minimum.
There is a book “What’s the least I can believe and still be a Christian?” – I have not read it – but just the title proves your point. Even in the church we only want to do the minimum. That does not bode well for our future. What we need to be asking is “How can I maximize my faith?”
You wrote “Is minimum love the way you want to be loved?” – I could not even picture what “minimum love” would be. Maybe that’s the point. If you love, it is all or nothing. It’s like when your kids ask who you love “better”. There is no better or worse, it just is. Love is there. God loved us to the max. It is the Minimum we can do to love others just the same.