Sunday, May 25, 2014

"If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments..." Can't I Just Keep Some of Them?

As I looked through this Sunday's readings from the Bible, I saw a thread connecting the call to repentance,
"While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." Acts 17:30-31
our failure to love,
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15 
and our need for Jesus,
"For Christ also suffered  for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God." 1Peter 3:18  
Since we don't keep his commandments, we must love the world instead. We dwell in it, and it dwells in us. Besides, it is so much easier to follow the laws of society than the laws of God. God is all about repentance, sin, and feeling bad about ourselves... right?

Modern people have separated themselves from God and His commandments to the extent that they don't even know what is sinful and what is not (see last week's post from Fr. Dale Matson, "Is This A Sin Father?"). The problem involves not just a Biblical knowledge gap (although that may be increasingly the cause), but modern Christians have been so inculcated with the world's definitions of acceptable/good/righteous behaviors that they not only claim ignorance, or flat out ignore God's commandments, they often claim that those commandments are no longer applicable, and that it is culture that defines morality. The current cultural approval of abortion, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage, etc. are examples of our abandonment of God's commandments, and this demonstrates the depth of our love for the world as well as the shallowness of our love for God. As a result we as a society no longer can lay claim to Jesus' promise of the Spirit of truth found in the very next verse to the one quoted above from John 14,
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him." John 14:16
The world lives in us, having displaced the Word from our hearts. Some may claim they keep some commandments, while at the same time breaking other commandments (i.e. when they dare to say that some sins are actually a blessing. )

No, the Spirit of truth must not be in us,
"If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us."
1 John 1:6 -10 

If we love Him, we will love his commandments.

All of them.

Love hurts...

The fact that we don't love his commandments is a reflection of our desire to maintain our autonomy, and the fear of the pain we will feel when we give up that autonomy by submission to God's rule. We would rather die clutching tightly our "Self" than to place it into the hands of a loving God. C. S. Lewis considered this painful surrender a kind of death in "The Problem of Pain" but Lewis successfully spins it into a delight,

"Now the proper good of a creature is to surrender itself to its Creator—to enact intellectually, volitionally, and emotionally, that relationship which is given in the mere fact of its being a creature. When it does so, it is good and happy. Lest we should think this a hardship, this kind of good begins on a level far above the creatures, for God Himself, as Son, from all eternity renders back to God as Father by filial obedience the being which the Father by paternal love eternally generates in the Son. This is the pattern which man was made to imitate—which Paradisal man did imitate—and wherever the will conferred by the Creator is thus perfectly offered back in delighted and delighting obedience by the creature, there, most undoubtedly, is Heaven, and there the Holy Ghost proceeds. In the world as we now know it, the problem is how to recover this self-surrender. We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved: we are, as Newman said, rebels who must lay down our arms.
The first answer, then, to the question why our cures should be painful, is that to render back the will which we have so long claimed for our own, is in itself, wherever and however it is done, a grievous pain. Even in Paradise I have supposed a minimal self-adherence to be overcome, though the overcoming, and the yielding, would there be rapturous. But to surrender a self-will inflamed and swollen with years of usurpation is a kind of death.C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), pp. 88-89. 
Keeping some of God's commandments and re-writing others is not 
surrender, it is not death, it is rebellion.

Keeping his commandments is death, is delight, is love.

We can't just love Him just a little, some of the time,
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all
thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.”
Matthew 22:36-38


  1. Disobedience created the ego and with it, a self conscious, self loving, self absorbed individual who is a child of the devil. That is the natural state of man after the fall. This individual will sacrifice others to satisfy himself. Man must be born again, rescued by Jesus Christ so that he may no longer live for himself. He will then sacrifice himself for the sake of others.

    1. Being born again is a death worth dying for.