Love and the Ten Commandments

If you truly love someone you will treat them well.  You will honor them, and you will certainly not murder them.  You will not cheat on them, steal from them, lie about them, or covet what they have.  At least, if you love them, you will surely try.

To pull this off you’ll have to be patient, kind, not envious, and not work to look more important than the person you love.  I can’t imagine that you’d be rude to them or easily angered by them.  When they‘ve wronged you, you’d forgive and forget.  You’d protect them, trust them, and hope the best for them.

You may have guessed that what I’ve done here is to connect the Ten Commandments and Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  The Ten Commandments are not just rules to contain us, they are truly about love.  The first four commandments are about loving God.  The other six are about loving each other.  You cannot adhere to the Ten Commandments without love.  As a matter of fact, if you don’t love God or your fellow humans, why would you even try to adhere to the Ten Commandments?

Jesus summed it up this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  “This is the first and greatest commandment.”  “And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)  There you have it.  Love is at the root of what God commands.  Love as well as you can, and ask God to increase the love in your heart.

Advertisements

Humbleness, an Attribute of God

One of my favorite scripture passages is Matthew 11:28-30.  In this passage Jesus refers to himself as “gentle and humble in heart”.  Doesn’t gentle and humble sound safe.  I am drawn to him when I think of him being gentle and humble.  Paul supports Jesus’ statement that he is humble with this declaration in Philippians 2:6-8,

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!

Jesus not only declared himself humble, but he unequivocally demonstrates his humble nature on the cross.  When you think of God, do you think of him as humble?  That’s not my first thought when I think of God, but he truly is humble.  So, what is humble? In all the definitions of humble, I find that not putting yourself first seems to clarify its meaning.  Jesus did not put himself first.  He put our needs ahead of his.

Adam and Eve were humble because they were created in the image of God.  They lost this attribute as a result of the fall.  They then became self concerned.  At the start of Philippians chapter 2 Paul is exhorting us to return to being humble.  He tells us, (Philippians 2:3-4) “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  He follows this with the scriptural illustration in Philippians 2:6-8 of Christ’s humility.

In our desire to be more like Jesus, humbleness should be near the top of the list.  As I looked at this attribute of God, I had to ask myself, am I gentle and humble in heart?  Am I safe for others?  These questions will dominate my self reflections for the rest of the week.  How about you?

BE MERCIFUL

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

 Jude 22-23

 

The Church, the Body of Christ, has throughout the ages frequently missed the basic tenet of being merciful.    On the other hand the Church has been an instrument of mercy in society since its beginning.  It’s been a mixed bag.  In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus says,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

God has shown us mercy, and he desires us to be merciful.  I believe our ability to be merciful depends on our ability to receive mercy.  Humility is the key.

 

To receive mercy, I must first recognize my need for mercy.  When I know that I have sinned against God, there is then the recognition of the debt I owe to God.  Secondly, I need to humble myself and become aware that there is nothing I can do to repay this debt.  God is willing and has made the way to grant me mercy by forgiving my debt.  I don’t have to work for it.  It’s free.  That is hard for me because in my pride I want to do something to earn forgiveness.  However, by holding on to this idea of earning forgiveness, I will never even understand mercy.

 

Now you can see why it’s a mixed bag for the Church.  Our pride often gets in the way.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  And again in 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  The Pharisees were caught up in a ritual of sacrifice that fed their pride allowing them to condemn others rather than show them mercy.  They were trying to pay their debt to God on their own merit.  They were blinded by pride and did not understand mercy.   Therefore, they could not extend mercy.

 

Mercy proceeds from a humble, forgiving heart.  This is God’s nature and his heart toward us.  By surrendering my will to God and allowing myself to be forgiven, I take the first step in understanding mercy.  I feel the burden of gilt lifted and the exhilaration of being free.  But, I must remember that I’m free and not fall prey to the lie that I must do something for this freedom.  That lie feeds my pride.  I must remain humble. Then in humble gratitude, I live under God’s mercy.  A life that is continually bathed in mercy emanates mercy.

REBEL, THE RETURN HOME

Mrs. Grady’s eyes sparkled when she saw James standing in the doorway of her pantry.  “Come in James,” she said with revealing enthusiasm.  “I heard you were coming.  Have a seat here at the table.  Just so happens I’m making some of those cherry tarts you’re so fond of.  The tea’s ready.”

“I’d love a cup, thank you.”  James said with warm appreciation.

Time passed quickly as Mrs. Grady seemed to have an endless supply of James’ favorite foods and sweets.  He was also enjoying her flow of conversation.

When the servant let James know that the package was ready, he looked at his watch and realized he’d been there quite some time.  He thanked Mrs. Grady for her kind attention and headed out to the carriage.

“Come back soon,” Mrs. Grady said with affection in her voice.”

James turned and smiled.

The carriage was ready to go when he arrived at the stable.

“You’re all ready to go James,” the servant said.  “The master offers his apology for the wait.”

“That’s okay,” said James. “The time passed quickly.”

The servant gave him a knowing expression then said, “The fog’s beginning to set in, so be careful.  It’ll be especially thick near the river.”

James took his place on the carriage seat, gave a nod of thanks, and he was on his way.

The long trek to the river progressed well.  The two horses managed the road smoothly.  Rebel seemed to follow Josh’s lead without concern.  The sun was getting low in the west, but it still gave plenty of light.  The dappling of the light from the trees along the road produced a peaceful feeling.  As they progressed the fog began to appear first as a light mist then ever thickening.  They approached the river just as the sun set.  The fog was dense and visibility was minimal.  As the fog thickened Rebel’s trust began to thin.  James could see his uneasiness.  Near the bridge Rebel tried to bolt.

James stopped the carriage, gave a moment’s pause, and then proceeded slowly.  Josh was so familiar with this foggy bridge crossing that he moved ahead with confidence.  Rebel, not being able to see where he was going, was apprehensive and skittish.  Trusting Josh was out the window.  He felt on his own and afraid.  Rebel inched forward jumping at every sound and rearing at every dip in the footing.  James was patient, allowing the team to move as slowly as they needed.

On the descent from the bridge, the fog was especially thick.  James couldn’t even see the horses in front of him.  Fortunately, the road was wide and flat here.  They moved forward cautiously.  Josh could feel the edge with his hooves, and he was able to keep them on the roadway.  Eventually the road began to ascend, and with the ascent, the fog thinned.

Barney greeted them as they approached the stable.  “Good to see you finally home,” He said.  “We were worried.”

“There was a three hour delay at Grantham Estates,” James offered.  “I had to wait for the package.”

“Mrs. Grady take good care of you?” asked Barney as a friendly dig.

James just smiled.

 

Epilogue 

 

I had two scripture passages in mind as I wrote this little story.  Like Rebel I struggle with trust issues.  These scriptures delight my soul and challenge my flesh.

.

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct you paths.

 

I recognize that Rebel has trust issues, and I see that his journey would have been easy if he was able to trust in Josh’s knowledge of what lies ahead.  Being yoked with Jesus requires trust, but the rewards of that trust are peace and contentment.  I’m working on it. How about you?

TROUBLE

John 16:3 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

James 1:2-3 Considerate it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

1Peter 4:1-2 (The Message) Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him.  Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way.  Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

I think these passages make it clear that “In this world you will have trouble”.  Since we will have trouble, it is not about the trouble; it’s about how we handle it.  I see two options: one trust in self and the world’s ways, or two trust in God.  In my early life, I chose option one; but now I’ve had enough years with the Lord to relish option 2.  The longer I struggle with these options, the easier it gets to live under option two.  The Apostle Peter in the above scripture paints a clear picture of how working through troubles frees us from the pursuit of our selfish will.

As a father, I have watched my adult children walk through many of life’s troubles. It was painful.  I helped when I could, but circumstances didn’t often allow me to intervene.  I learned that they are God’s children, and I need to allow him to be their father.

Now, how wonderful it is to see my children maturing in the Lord.  I am truly blessed, and so is our Father.  As I trust him, he is blessed; and as my children trust him, he is blessed.

Now he and I get to see my adult grandchildren go through the troubles of this life.  It will be at times painful to watch, but I know God and I will be blessed.  It’s his promise to me.

THE REAL ISSUE

 What is the real issue that Christians need to concern themselves with?  This question arose from a conversation I had last week.  A close friend and I were discussing the changes in morality that we’ve seen in our life time.  As we talked, it dawned on me that, though I’m saddened by the moral decline in America, this is not the real issue.

Jesus didn’t charge us with fixing the sin in others, and he warned us not to judge others (See Matthew 7:1-5).  However, he did charge us with two things.  The first is to love one another, and the second is to make others disciples.  Our job is to love our fellow humans, and bring them to him.  He’ll take care of fixing the sin.

Sin and evil are all around us, and this has been true since the fall of Adam and Eve.  Jesus has the only cure for sin.  So the real issue is do you know Jesus?  As Christians, loving sinners and bringing them to Jesus is the issue that should occupy our time.

GOD IS WITH US

A few weeks ago I had to face a medical procedure that I knew would be painful.  The normal way I handle a difficulty like this is to draw into myself and face it in my own strength.  Of course there is considerable anxiety that comes with this method of facing a difficulty, and I am usually stressed out.  But by God’s mercy this time was different.

I am finding it difficult to explain what caused it to be different, so I’ll just tell you what happened.  I found myself aware of God’s presence.  The more I focused on his presence the more relaxed I became.  While the procedure was going on, I looked to God.  When my focus began to shift, I reminded myself to keep my focus on God.  For the first time in my life, I walked through a difficulty not thinking that I was alone but recognizing that God was with me.  I tell you it made the procedure almost pleasant.

I am not alone!  I know this, but now I’ve experienced it.  I am thankful for my family and friends who prayed diligently for me.  They helped me break through to this new awareness.

Later that day, my daughter Ruth gave me a greeting card, and in the text was this line, “You rush to help when in faith we draw near.”  Yes, that’s it.  God’s presence is always with me.  I experience him when in faith I draw near.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20