Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Hard Commandment

A few years ago, an Eritrean Brother in Christ asked me a Bible question that was so easy could barely withhold my laughter.  He asked me, “How many commandments are there?” I almost responded, “Are you kidding me?” But I didn’t. Still I smiled pretty smugly and said, “Of course ten!”  He smiled with amusement shaking his head, “You are wrong Brother!”  I said, “What do you mean I’m wrong! There are 10 Man! Just check out Exodus! TEN!!! 1-0!!”  He smiled even more and said, “It is true that the Decalogue is in Exodus, but you have forgotten that Jesus said, ‘A new Commandment I give unto you! So actually, there are 11!’”  My goodness! He was right! Jesus said, “A new commandment, I give unto you. That you love one another, as I have loved you – that you love one another as I have loved you. By this, shall everyone know you are my disciples – that you have love for one another.”  ELEVEN commandments and number 11 presents quite a challenge! 

In his first letter, the Apostle John shares some strong admonitions regarding this new commandment for those who claim to know God. He says, Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.  But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

Love is hard.  It is prettied up and watered down in movies and entertainment, but real life, real time love is hard, gut wrenching work.  He Bible defines love in these terms:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Ever had your patience tested when someone gets on your nerve? It’s a chance to demonstrate love.  Ever been tempted to bra after a victory, or answer in kind when someone is incredibly rude?  It’s an opportunity to rise above the fray with love.  Ever been challenged to give a cheerful greeting before you’ve had that first cup of coffee, or to bear with your annoying cousin Joey, or to keep hope alive in your heart when your circumstances dictate there is no hope or to hang tough and endure when you’ve reached the end of your rope?  All of these circumstances give us a chance to demonstrate real love!  Real love demonstrates God’s goodness, grace and strength through our human actions even when it doesn’t seem to make sense to show it. 

But when real love is demonstrated, it can soften hearts, change the course of history and stop evil and wickedness dead in its tracks.  We have become a society obsessed with enjoying and expressing our rights and our fixation on being right.  In our pursuit of “rightness” we have left love on the side of the road, covered with the dust of our ambitions and self-righteousness.  Love will pursue righteousness, which means doing what is right, in the right way, even if it hurts us. We love because it is right. But, being right in the right way also probably means that at least for a time, we will pay the emotional, physical and spiritual price for someone else’s mistake in a way that can deeply hurt us. Love means that time and time again, we will have to go to the well of God’s love, casting our bucket into its depths with weary arms, strained backs and withered wills asking God to lift the bucket for us so that we can express His love beyond our own abilities and give hope to those who desperately need to see somebody show them what true love is.

Today, in the course of your daily duties, I challenge you to love.  Not just when it’s easy, such as when a beautiful person beckons or a sure reward awaits an act of kindness and sacrifice.  I’m calling all of us to love that driver who hoists the universal “friendship salute”!  I’m asking us to love that obnoxious coworker who just doesn’t know when to be quiet.  I calling us to love someone who has deeply wronged us, choosing to pray for them and to forgive them rather than to despise them and hate them.

The 11the commandment is a toughy, but it’s a beauty!  In fact, it’s the most beautiful commandment and the linchpin of all the commandments that surround it.  Let’s pray for the strength to love. It is what the world needs now, and  it is sweet!