Most of us grew up seeing the Ten Commandments posted on walls of our schools, courthouses and churches. Many have claimed these principles are the basis for our Judeo-Christian society.
My husband and I started 2019 by reading through the Bible – starting with Genesis. The story was interesting at first as we read about creation, the flood and the beginning of the Israelite nation with patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Then we got to the end of Exodus and the beginning of Leviticus. Here, Moses was given detailed instructions on how the tabernacle should be built and how the priests should conduct offerings used in worship of God. There are rules about what to eat and what not to eat, a lot of rules regarding sexual relations and how to deal with skin diseases.
To be honest, this is difficult and somewhat boring reading. But one thing I noticed throughout that portion of Scripture that over and over it was said that Moses did “just what the Lord had commanded.”
Throughout the Old Testament we read the story of how the Israelites did like we still seem to do today – sometimes obeying God – sometimes not. The Old Testament ends with the nation of Israel exiled because of their failure to obey God’s commands.
Then we enter the New Testament. We see Jesus who came to pay the price of our disobedience. We live in what we call the period of grace. What a blessing to not have to live in fear of breaking a command of God, of knowing that we are saved not by what we do, but by faith and acceptance of what Jesus did for us on the cross.
So, does that mean we are no longer required to obey? The loving picture of Jesus in the New Testament is certainly much more appealing than the demands of obedience in the Old Testament.
But a closer look at the words of Jesus shows He also demanded obedience if we would claim to be following Him.
“If you love me, keep my commandments.”
“The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”
Jesus summed up the commandments when He told his questioners:
“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
This all sounds pretty simple. Really not too demanding. Much easier than living under the Law.
I don’t think so. I think the requirements of Jesus are much more demanding – and something we cannot do without His help.
Think about it:
- The Law said not to murder.
- Jesus said if you are angry and curse someone you are in danger of hell. He said to not bring any sacrifice to Him until you made it right with the one you were angry with.
- The Law said not to commit adultery.
- Jesus said a person must not look at another with lust in their heart.
- The Law said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
- Jesus said to love your enemy and to even pray for them.
- The Law was concerned with our outward appearance.
- Jesus is concerned with our heart.
My heart grieves today as it seems many Christians feel they no longer have to obey the words of Jesus when it comes to loving and praying for their enemies.
But I note that He said He would love us and make Himself plain to us (in other words have a relationship with Him) IF we obey His commandments.
Without love for others, I fear we will, like the Israelites, find ourselves without God’s protection.
Lord God, thank you for loving us. Help us to remember that as we experience your love and mercy we just give that love and mercy to others. Even to those who disagree with us. Even to those who hurt us. Help us to love as you love and remember that you not only love us, but you love our enemies.