Spend your youth on the most important thing, encourages Bishop Dr Gordon Wong
All photos courtesy of The Methodist Church in Singapore.
A popular saying goes: “The most important thing is to make the most important thing the most important thing.”
Many things in life are important, such as our studies, our health, our friends.
“But what is that most important thing in life?” asked Bishop Dr Gordon Wong at the final session of the Methodist youth conference, One Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength (1HSMS), last Friday.
Speaking to the 100 people who had gathered at Kum Yan Methodist Church as well as those who were watching the livestream online, the conference marked the end of a year-long 135th anniversary celebration by the Methodist Church in Singapore.
Bishop Wong’s message for the night was related to the title of the conference: 1HSMS.
“What is the fundamental or central purpose for human life?” he prompted. “What is the greatest meaning or purpose of life?”
Referring to Matthew 22:35-40, Bishop Wong shared that there are a total of 613 commandments in the Jewish law, giving instructions on every aspect of life, from what people should and should not wear, to what work can and cannot be done.
These were understood by the Jews as giving shape and meaning to a person’s life.
That is why when the expert in the law asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is, it was as if he was asking what the most important thing in life (Matthew 22:35).
He lists four things that can be learnt from the response Jesus gives.
1. THE QUESTION IS IMPORTANT
Jesus didn’t brush it off by telling the Pharisee not to waste his time by asking something so deep and profound.
“Jesus gives an answer, and in doing so, He tells us that this is a good question to ask,” said Bishop Wong.
2. THERE IS WISDOM FROM THE PAST
In his reply, Jesus cited Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
“Jesus is quoting what Moses had already said over 1,000 years earlier,” he emphasised, adding that Jesus agrees with wisdom from the past.
3. THE ANSWER STARTS WITH LOVE FOR GOD
Bishop Wong noted: “Jesus says to us that everybody should make love for God the most important and main love of their life. Not just sometimes, but at all times.”
He challenged the audience: If love for God is not our first and most important love in life, then who or what is?
After all, the question of who or what we choose as the central object of our love is crucial.
Referencing a quote by the German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Bishop Wong shared: “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”
Provoking the audience to reflect on these questions, he asked: “What do you love the most? And can you see how it is shaping your life?”
“If love for God is not our first and most important love in life, then who or what is?”
Bishop Wong pointed out how Jesus gave us the answer on who we ought to love because this is who we are and who we were created to be.
Reaffirming the message of Matthew 22, he said: “We were created to be human beings who love God and love one another.
“The better we learn to love God, and the better we learn to love one another, the better our lives find fulfilment and their true meaning.”
4. WE’RE LOVING GOD WHEN WE LOVE OUR NEIGHBOUR
But what does it mean to love God – someone whom we cannot see, touch or feel?
“In case you think it’s too abstract… Jesus immediately explains the command to love God in a second command which He says is just like the first: To love God is to love your neighbour as yourself,” said Bishop Wong.
That led to his fourth point: We love God by loving our fellow human beings.
He then shared the story of Hunter Adams, a brilliant young American who, at 18 years old, was on the verge of wasting his youth. He felt so unfulfilled that he attempted suicide three times.
After being sent to a psychiatric hospital, he saw other patients there who also didn’t have a desire to go on living. But it was then that Hunter found a reason to live: to make someone happy every day.
It may sound simple or naïve, but it gave him a purpose in life. This simple goal inspired him to complete his medical studies, as well as set up The Gesundheit! Institute.
Explaining how the non-profit aims to provide free medical care that is filled with fun and play, Bishop Wong described how it organises humanitarian clowning trips that bring laughter and healthcare to orphanages and refugee camps around the world.
In fact, Hunter’s story was turned into the movie, Patch Adams, starring the late Robin Williams as Hunter “Patch” Adams.
Bringing his sermon to a close, Bishop Wong said we might not have gone through a similar experience, but “all of us, in one way or another, have some kind of ability to show kindness and love to someone else”.
Turning our attention to what’s happening around us, he suggested that societal trends have presented opportunities in which we can love our neighbour.
1. An ageing world
As one of the fastest ageing countries in the world, the proportion of elderly in Singapore is growing at a rapid pace. Have we shown kindness to our parents, grandparents and lonely seniors?
“Wouldn’t it be great if you, as young people, spent your energy helping older people to laugh, or experience a bit of joy and kindness?” asked Bishop Wong.
2. A polarising world
While social media is a tool that connects us, it can also divide us, he observed. People are experiencing pain from hurtful speech.
Bishop Wong laid down a challenge. “Can we be different? Can you be different?”
Concluding with these words of wisdom, he said: “Don’t waste your youthful energy worrying about how many people will friend you or like you, or like what you say. Use your youthful energy to help other people feel loved or liked.”
Instead of criticising, commit to being encouraging.
“Spend your youth making the most important thing, the most important thing,” he urged, reminding us to love God with one heart, soul, mind and strength, and love God by loving our neighbour.
To catch up on the rest of our coverage on the Methodist youth conference, One Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength (1HSMS), click on the stories below!
THINK + TALK
- Who or what is your most important love in your life?
- How is it shaping your life?
- Who can you show more love to?