It is a common and prevalent misconception that Christianity requires you to refrain from doing what you want to do and instead obliges you to keep a lot of religious rules and regulations.
That was a mistake which the Pharisees made in Jesus day.
Trying to catch him out, one zealot of the Law asked him to choose which of the Commandments was the most important – Matthew chapter 22, from verse 34.
Now, this lawyer was the Pharisees spokesman trying to catch Jesus out. To get him to commit himself to a mistake. We have looked at this mentality in previous posts.
Their error was in their perspective, and in their way of thinking. They started with the list of the Ten great Commandments [Exodus chapter 20 and repeated in Deuteronomy chapter 5].
They expected Jesus to think in the terms they had set him: the individual Ten Commandments. But he, of course, knew far better and had a different perspective. Which was why he refused to choose one of the Ten in the list, but instead answered them in terms of the meaning of all the Commandments.
And in doing so he cites not the list, but Deuteronomy chapter 6 and verse 5 as his interpreting principle. And for good measure he gave them what they did not ask for, which was the second most important Commandment. Because what he did was to sum up the entire Ten Commandments according to their objectives. The first 4 relate to God himself, and the remaining 6 concern our relationships one to another. In that order, note.
Thus he answered from Scripture; gave them the priority; redefined the perspective; and summed it all up in terms of RELATIONSHIPS, not regulations. The regulations, the rules all have a purpose: they are not an end in themselves. They serve a far greater purpose. And in pointing that out, Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees their grave error of approach and of practice.
Because without understanding the reason for the rules, the rules become so much negative rote. They become an end in themselves and fail to serve the true purpose: to love God.
And this is what Christianity is about. A relationship of LOVE. God’s love to us, and God’s love to others.
All the ritual and religion of the Old Testament, of the Jewish religion, was now to be abandoned to focus on the underlying and ultimate point of all that ritual and religion: love God and love others.
It can never have been God’s intention for human beings to get caught up and lost in the rules and regulations, thereby losing sight of the all important purpose which was due regard for God and due regard for each other.
Christianity is incredibly positive and practical. It is about accepting and receiving the unmerited but measureless love of God and then showing that love to others. Coming to the realisation that of our own humanity, we can never truly love God; we can never truly love others, totally and selflessly.
Christianity is about something fundamentally real and something fundamentally relevant and vibrant: the love of God for us, and the love of God through us to others.
It is emphatically not about special buildings, special clothes, special titles and positions, special ceremonies. All these have been associated with Christianity. But none of them is the point. And if that point is lost, then all those special human oriented aspects become not just meaningless, but dangerous distractions, or even a new purpose leading us away from God and his purpose.
LOVE GOD – LOVE OTHERS
I have no use for other gods or graven images, because I know the true love of the one true God.
I have no difficulty setting time aside to be with God and God’s people at least once a week, because I know God’s love and the love of his people
I do not want to blaspheme and take God’s name in vain, because to do so grieves me and grieves God’s Spirit in me.
I honour my parents, because I know the wisdom of God’s order and I know God’s greater love.
I have no desire to harm another human being, because I know how great God’s love is and because God has forgiven me all that he had against me
I do not commit adultery or fornication because God has so blessed me in the observance of his divine order for family life and because I see and understand the terrible anguish and heartache caused by breach of trust in relationships
I do not steal because God provides all that I truly need and because such would harm another person
I do not bear false witness against my neighbour [tell lies and untruths] because God is the precious truth, and truth is the bedrock of all trust between human beings and the very basis of all justice and fairness in civilised society
I do not selfishly, greedily want what my neighbour has because in Jesus I have all that I truly need and he provides all that I truly need, and because to want what this world has and craves is to set my heart and mind on passing pleasure at the expense of the one True Possession of this life and the next – Jesus Christ.
Why, when I have all that is truly precious and eternal, should I want what is transitory foolish and wrong ?