For what has seemed like an eternity BuddyO and I have been battling over the differences between how we each perceive God’s character. Recently he had this to say on the subject: http://rev22.org/index.php/archives/108
Which got me to thinking; perhaps he is on to something here. This provoked even more thinking on my part, causing a loss of consciousness. Right after coming to I had something like an epiphany:
Throughout the Bible (not just the OT) there are plenty of references to the holiness, righteousness and exacting justice of God. Even the Gospels have passages that some find a bit ‘hard to swallow’ given the forgiving nature of Jesus. There is a part of one passages that clearly speaks of God’s sovereignty and his intentions for us:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27)
In many ‘conservative’ churches great emphasis is placed on personal righteousness, striving to show God the full respect that he deserves as well as the obedience that he requires. It is often remarked that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, that he came to fulfill it, so to trivialize or disregard God’s laws as recorded in scripture is not only unbiblical but dangerous as well. There is a concern that God is being misrepresented as soft, weak and less than holy.
Then there are the mandates of Jesus (also found throughout the Bible, including the Old Testament) concerning the sacrificial service he expects of us in regards to our relationship with others. This one in particular is quite well known:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
Many ‘liberal’ churches today consider the commands of Jesus to care for those in need (as well as the natural world we have been given) as his highest priority. The emphasis here has been on the mandate for social justice that is found again and again throughout both Old and New Testaments. To them, a fervent devotion to Biblical doctrine and the law is considered misguided and counter to serving God’s kingdom. To portray God as wrathful and angry with the world is to misunderstood the message of Jesus; that strength is found in surrender and weakness.
Of course neither one of these commands of Jesus is meant to stand alone. What is often forgotten is the importance of one little word – “and”. Taken separately, each part of this command is certainly worth considering and devoting one’s life to. Apparently Jesus did not mean for this to be the case as they are irrevocably tied together with that one little conjunction. I guess we could look at it as two very important requests that God has made of us. If only we would obey both of these rules, keeping them both sacred and secure in hearts, how much better would the world be?
But it seems that, at best, we can only concentrate on keeping one command at a time. Church history has proven over and over again that this tactic is not very successful. Many of us find it difficult to keep even one of these commands, much less both of them. Some of us have a hard time understanding ‘who’ this distant God is so we may find it impossible to love him as we do our spouses or our children. (After all, we aren’t saints, are we?) Others may have a very tough time being able to ‘love’ others, especially those that they don’t like. (But we aren’t God. W can’t be expected to do what Jesus did, can we?)
The secret is that little word –“and”. Jesus did not intend for us to carry around two new laws in our hearts, to take the place of the 10 or the 600 already on the books. There has always been only one law and that law is ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind AND Love your neighbor as yourself.” That ‘and’ is like the plus sign in an equation – each part standing alone is deficient without the addition of the other. The harmonious conjuction of those two simple sentences equals the entirety of God’s Law. And the Law = Love. When we take them together, realizing that each part’s value is dependant on the other, our world opens up to infinite possibilities. It was on the cross that Jesus showed us how to bring those two parts together as one.