Moore: The one rule to live by
Can you recite the 10 Commandments? It’s intriguing that many Christians will struggle to do so (sometimes including me), even though we often view the 10 Commandments as essential and sacred.
This is even more interesting when you realize that the New Testament replaced them all with just two. Really one with two parts. Whatever. How about a good coffee analogy?
Imagine for a minute that there were actually 11 commandments. The eleventh, in my best King James voice, could have been this:
Thou shalt take a bean of the coffee plant, roast it, grind it, and filter hot water through it. Thou shalt drink the beverage daily, and there will be much rejoicing. Thus sayeth the Lord.
Before you call me sacrilegious, let me say I hold the Old Testament (more appropriately called the Hebrew Bible) in great honor. I’m not mocking the 10 Commandments, but rather want to frame a question: What if drinking coffee were a tenet of moral law? Thou shalt drink coffee.
When I wake up tomorrow and pull out my french press, would I be doing so because God’s moral law says I must, or, because I love coffee? For all us coffee lovers, otherwise known as normal humans, the reason we lift the cup would be because we love coffee.
What the law says would not even cross our mind because our motivation to grind the bean, heat the water, and slip into the joy of caffeinated bliss is love.
Ahem. Got a little emotional there. Here’s my point: What if all of God’s moral law were just like that? What if how we chose to live wasn’t a requirement of moral law, but instead an expression of love?
If that sounds like a lyric from some 1960s utopian rock ballad, then the Apostle Paul must have been a hippie. Some 2000 years ago, this is what he wrote:
Whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
That’s from Romans, chapter 13. Pretty radical stuff for a faith way too often co-opted by legalistic thinking.
Now, it’s important to note that Paul isn’t abandoning God’s ethical teaching here. But he is saying that the totality of God’s moral law can and must be summed up into the one great command (with two parts) that Jesus gave us in Matthew, chapter 22. To paraphrase just a little, Jesus said, “the greatest commandment is this: Love God, and Love People.”
Why don’t we steal? Because the law says not to steal? Maybe it does, but the best reason for us not to steal is that stealing hurts people, and our greatest calling is to love people. You see, when we base our morality off of rules, there is always a way to find a loophole in those rules, and resentment often accompanies obedience. But when our motivation is love, everything changes.
Consider this example. A man goes on a business trip to Vegas. While there, he is presented with the clear opportunity to bunk with a co-worker (in the Biblical sense). The question is, on what basis does he choose not to commit adultery? Because the moral law says not to? Fear of consequence if he’s caught? Perhaps.
But what if (crazy I know) he doesn’t commit adultery simply because he loves his wife? How radical is that?
Friends, this truth that Jesus wants to set us free from law, so that we can live by love, is at the very heart of the New Testament. Next month I hope to push into this more. But right now it’s time to live some love. Coffee anyone?
Ethan Moore is the pastor of Trinity Church in Edwards. He and Lisa have lived in the valley for almost twenty-five years. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he would love to have a cup of coffee with you.