The FIRST Command Is To Love God

I just read a long, rather impassioned post about same-sex marriage from someone who identifies as a Christian, though not as a Christianist, defined as “those on the fringes of the religious right who have used the Gospels to perpetuate their own aspirations for power, control and oppression,” but then described as all those who lined up at a Chick-Fil-A to support Mr. Cathy’s right to give charitably as he sees fit without being punished by the government.

Posts like this make me seriously wonder if people know what the US Constitution says and/or if they care a whit whether or not someone else’s rights are being violated–even when they disagree with that person.

But of greater issue is that the blogger said,

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” repeatedly named as the greatest commandment, means that we must imagine ourselves in our neighbors’ positions and treat them as we would treat ourselves.

While making some valid comments about how Christians should treat others, the elephant in the post is that “love your neighbor” is the second greatest command, not the first. What a misstep!

And it is no small thing in elevating our treatment of others over our treatment of God. This is the way false teaching works. God gets relegated to second place, at best.

In truth, God specifically reserved the top spot for Himself. We are to have no other gods before Him.

Jesus spelled it out clearly, a statement repeated in all three of the synoptic gospels, when He was questioned about the greatest command:

One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. (Matt. 22:35-38, emphasis mine)

But the key point here is that Jesus was quoting the command from Deuteronomy 6:5. A few chapters later, Moses reiterates the point:

Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut. 10:12)

The command is repeated yet again toward the end of the book:

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes (Deut. 30:15-16a)

What’s hard to ignore is the fact that loving God and obeying God are tied together. Someone can give all the human reasoning they want to for doing whatever they wish to do, but the fact is, when that person disobeys God’s law, He’s not loving God.

The potential stumbling block is that one of God’s commands is to love our neighbors. Hence, someone can say, I am obeying God when I advocate for same-sex marriage because I am loving my neighbors who have been denied their rights.

That statement is riddled with problems. First, and really the only point that matters, is this: it is not loving to enable someone to sin.

The problem becomes complicated, as I see it, when people bearing the name of Christ wish to enforce God’s law rather than to love their neighbor by refusing to enable his sin. It’s a difference in attitude and motive, first, but it’s also a difference in conclusion–as if obeying God’s law against same-sex unions will make the individuals in question acceptable in God’s sight.

The truth is, we are separated from God, not because we are immoral, lie, get drunk, gossip, or harbor pride in our hearts. Yes, those things deserved death, but Jesus Christ took on Himself the penalty we should pay because we are bankrupt and incapable of doing enough to even our account. Instead of accepting His free gift, though, some reject Him and remain in their sin. It’s that rejection that leaves them separated from God.

Jesus never said, Clean up so you can come to Me. Rather, His message is, Come to Me, and I’ll clothe you with My righteousness and give you a new life renewed according to My image.

Loving God and obeying His commandments don’t happen because we try harder. Loving God is a response to His first loving us. Obeying God is a demonstration of our love for Him. The elements are entwined, and we confuse the issue when we try to separate one strand from the others.

Or if we forget which is the greatest command.

Published in: on September 3, 2012 at 6:17 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. This is excellent and you hinted at something I’d like to underline:After the Fall of humanity, we knew enough to sin, but not why we shouldn’t sin, experientially, because that Righteousness no longer entered the Garden, in the cool of the evening, to model and discuss all things Good.

    In our ignorance, from antiquity, people began to blame God, for the misery of sin. This makes us, not the criminal, but the judge. We have not earned that right! Since each of us has already sinned, we will never earn that right. Only Jesus is found worthy, to open the Book. As we are not worthy to judge God, because of our sin, we are also not able to even judge each other: to his own Master, he stands or falls.

    But by God’s Grace and through His Word, we have access to Heavenly information about right and wrong. When we know something is right or wrong, it is important to explain why it is so. The root of every “Why?” question about God’s rules is His Love. Sin causes death. When my daughter was little, some may remember a cartoon character named “Mr. Ugh.” He was green and the sticker with his picture on it was on every dangerous cleaner I owned. My daughter was dully warned about “Mr. Ugh,” and she never experimented with those products. There’s more to this story, but that is for another time and place. As long as she was warned, she understood the danger, and stayed safe.

    Fast forward to the 21st Century. Why haven’t young people been warned of the physical dangers of the sin of homosexuality? Are we too afraid of people, to protect people? Why haven’t we warned them of the psychological dangers of homosexuality? Even today, alienation and rejection dog their every step. People who care about them as people are branded, even for talking with them and reaching out to them, and this, from people who say they are “pro-homosexual.”

    What would have happened in the Church, if we treated adulterers the way homosexuals have been treated? Gossips? Gluttons? Sin is sin, and it all kills. Becky, you are so right, when you say that pointing the finger does not help the situation. We need to love people as Jesus has loved us, reaching down, into the mire, to pull us up, to intercede, as He did in the Garden, and still does, every day, and to find a way to reach people, often stuck in layers of fear. I’m so glad God warned me, and loved me even after my sin!

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  2. Great post, Becky! I agree with you too, Peggy. Sin–is sin! Even when no one knows, sin can still get in the way of our relationship with God, and our fellowship with fellow believers, because we know! Sin also corrodes our spirits.

    Sin is also the most aggressive weed of all time–worse even than kudzu!

    A small, seemingly insignificant transgression so easily leads to greater and larger sins, until suddenly our little, “not that bad” sin problem has taken over and is running our lives, and–we’re enslaved to it, and reaping the bitter consequences on every side. The only way to break the hold sin has over us as human beings, even as believers, is to stay honest about what sin really is, and be repentant when we slip into it.

    No matter how big or little a sin is, we should not condone it, encourage it, or enable it in ourselves or others. And above all, we should seek, in love, to encourage each other to fill our lives with activities that are pleasing to God so that we have less time and room for sin to take root.

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