Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Thought for Thursday 18 August 2016

“When you have had children and children’s children, and become complacent in the land … you will not live long on the land but will be utterly destroyed … You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 4:25, 26, 6:5).

Throughout the Torah (first five books of the Bible), the dominant theme is to “fear” The Lord.  According to Jewish scholars, then, the first time we are commanded to “love” The Lord comes in Deuteronomy, according to the Great Commandment Jesus Himself affirms.  So the question then becomes; is it better to “fear” The Lord, or to “love” Him?  And if we are to “love” Him, how do we do so?

Fear can compel us to obey the commandments diligently for fear of judgment in the Last Days, but there has to be more to this obedience than to be afraid of what will become of us as individuals.  Fear has its place, of course, especially when we understand the greater context of “fear” as it is used to command “respect”.  “Fear” compels us to do only for the sake of escaping any personal consequences, but this has no more value than claiming a “personal” Savior who becomes so “private” as to shut out all others except those whom we choose to love, those who can somehow benefit us “personally”.  Yet this notion of pleasing oneself can never be construed as “love” more than it must be recognized as “lust” – expecting, in fact demanding personal reward.

Yet when we “love” The Lord with our whole being, The Word itself – which is Jesus – cannot help but to breathe more life into us by connecting “love The Lord” with “love your neighbor as yourself”.  As Jesus the Living Word teaches, “the second is like the first”; which is to say, these are inseparable components of a genuine relationship based primarily on love with a healthy dose of respect.

I think we need a little “fear” to provoke us to greater works, just as Jesus teaches “the one who believes in Me … will do greater works than these” (John 14:12).  But it surely must be that when we engage more fully in the relationship, we will discover a love we have perhaps not known since we were justified before our God and Father; when by His mercy alone we were absolved of our sins and restored to His favor.  As we grow more fully into this justification and become sanctified before Him, we are more fully restored into that Perfect Image in which we are all created.  Think of when our parents compelled us to do chores, the things we would have avoided at all cost in order to be free to do only the things which pleased us “personally”.  Only as we grew in this structure, this order, this discipline were we able to learn the true value of the works for more than the works themselves.  The whole family, the household benefitted from our active engagement.  So will the Church, the body of believers, the Body of Christ Himself!

When we think of a relationship with The Lord only in terms of choosing between Heaven and hell, it is only fear that moves us.  Before long, as we well know, what truly scares us will soon become something we hold more in contempt than in love or even respect.  This is no way to live, and it is not the Life we are called and invited into.

Only when we draw closer to The Lord can we even begin to understand the depth of His Love for all of creation – even those who have deliberately harmed us.  And if this is a kind of love we cannot conceive of, it is time to take a step closer in faith, fully trusting that He will reveal to us what we need to know and when we need to know it.

The Lord is great, is He not?


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