The Ten Commandments themselves are all about relationships with God and others. If you lie, steal, murder, etc., you’ll quickly ruin any relationship. But good relationships aren’t created simply by the absence of wrong behavior; good relationships require the doing of good.
This is what New Testament Christianity is all about. The seeds of this concept were planted in the Old Testament and quoted by Jesus in answer to someone’s question:
One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, o Israel! the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
Please answer each of these questions: How do you love God with all your heart? How do you love God with all your soul? How do you love God with all your mind? How do you love God with all your strength? And if you do all that, how do you have any love left for your neighbor or yourself?
We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:19-21)
Loving God doesn’t mean hiding out in a monastery, secluded from people. Quite the opposite:
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (1 John 3:16-18)
Jesus put it this way in Matthew 25:40, “To the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”
Jesus led by example. He denied every worldly desire, choosing instead to serve others; personally teaching them about the kingdom of heaven and training each one to do the same. You can read about the results in the book of Acts. And the rest of the New Testament is filled with instructions about having good relationships with one another.
The institutionalization of anything always diminishes personal responsibility and initiative. Anyone who’s ever experienced a spontaneous outpouring of love from Christians has benefited a lot more than someone who’s gotten an obligatory visit from the clergy.
Many think Christianity is keeping some rules and attending some ceremonies. Organized religion promotes this idea because it keeps them in business. Don’t be deluded. Dressing up and playing church every Sunday is not New Testament Christianity.
We have received a higher calling! Love takes all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The result of true worship, transformation of character, and becoming a new creature should be authentic relationships.
It’s not the job of ‘the church’ to love people and spread the gospel. If you are a Christian, you are the church. It’s your job! Jesus rolled up His sleeves and got His hands dirty (so to speak), and He expects us to do the same. What does being a disciple of Jesus Christ really look like? Read this very slowly:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. (Phil 2:3-5)
Wouldn’t it be easier to just ‘go to church’ on Sundays, split hairs over inconsequential stuff, and pat yourself on the back for paying an institution to do good to others, while living the rest of your life like the rest of the world? Yes, it’s easier to be a hypocrite than it is to be authentic, but the reward isn’t as good.
Will you accept Christ’s higher calling of taking up your cross daily, getting the word of God into your heart, soul, and mind daily, and considering how to apply each verse with all your strength to each of your relationships?
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, [if you warm the seat of a pew once a week? no…] if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)
Next up: Love feast v. Formal ceremony >>>